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2) 



CHATTO & WJNDUS, Piccadilly, W. 



Rogues and Vagabonds 



By GEORGE R. SIMS 



AUTHOR OF HOW THE POOR LIVE, ETC. 




Hontoon 

CHATTO AND WINDUS, PICCADILLY 

1885 

[ The right of translation is reserved} 



TO 

MY GOOD FRIENDS, 

AGOSTINO AND STEFANO GATTI, 

THIS STORY, 

NOW FIRST PUBLISHED IN NOVEL FORM, 

IS GRATEFULLY 



CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. THE AVEECK OF THE ' BON ESPOIR ' - - 1 

II. TOPSEY TUEVEY SEES A GHOST - - -6 

III. ME. EDWARD MABSDON MEETS AN OLD FRIEND - 12 

IV. NO. FIFTEEN, LITTLE QUEER STREET - - 17 
V. MISS DUCK HAS A WOED TO SAY- - - 24 

VI. AN OFFEE OF MAEEIAGE - - - - 27 

VII. A CHAT OVEE OLD TIMES ... ?,2 

VIII. ME. DUCK'S NEW LODGEES - - - 40 
IX. CONCERNING GERTIE HECKETT, A KIND LADY, A 

GOOD DOG, AND A WICKED BIED - - 45 

X. IN WHICH GRIGG AND LIMPET EXPLAIN- - 50 

XI. A VERY NICE OLD GENTLEMAN - - - 56 

XII. GOES INTO A LITTLE FAMILY HISTORY - - 61 

XIII. THE MASTEE OF EDEN VILLA - - - 68 

XIV. JABEZ SEES THE GHOST - - - 73 

XV. ME. GUETH EGERTON COMES TO LIFE - - 77 

XVI. LIMPET JUNIOR TRANSACTS SOME BUSINESS - 85 

XVII. SMITH AND CO. AT WORK - - 90 

XVIII. THE FOEGED CHEQUE - - - - 95 

XIX. GEETIE MAKES A PEOMISE - - - 99 

XX. GEETIE MAKES A DISCOVERY - - - 102 

XXI. GUETH EGEETON BECOMES AMBITIOUS - - 108 

XXII. ME. JABEZ DISSEMBLES - - - - 112 

XXIII. THE ADRIANS AT HOME - - - - 116 

XXIV. OLD SWEETHEARTS - - - - 121 
XXV. GEORGE HAS ' THE STRAIGHT TIP ' - - 126 

XXVI. PECULIAR BEHAVIOUR OF MR. SETH PREENE - 131 

XXVII. THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN - - - - 135 

XXVIII. SQUIRE HEEITAGE MAKES A WILL - - 140 

XXIX. THE BUEGLAEY AT THE HALL - - - 144 

XXX. HOW FATHEE AND SON MET AGAIN - - 147 

XXXI. IS SLIGHTLY EETEOSPECTIVE - - - 155 

XXXII. FATHEE AND DAUGHTEE - - - - 158 

XXXIII. HUNTED DOWN ----- 161 



IV 



CONTENTS. 



OIIAPTER PACK 

XXXIV. A BUNCH OF VIOLETS - - - - 167 

XXXV. MRS. ADRIAN'S CONVERSION - - - 172 

XXXVI. RIVALS ------ 175 

XXXVII. SMITH AND CO. START IN A NEW LINE - - 182 

XXXVIII. RUTH ANSWERS A LETTER - - - 185 

XXXIX. THE GOLD ROBBERY - 189 

XL. THE ADRIANS GO OUT TO TEA - - - 195 

XLI. AN AFTERNOON CALL - 200 

XLII. A DUEL OF WORDS ... - 204 

XLIII. THE GREAT BLANKSH1RE BANK - - - 209 

XLIV. A JOURNEY'S END - - - - 211 

XLV. A FRIEND IN NEED - 215 
XLVI. SMITH AND CO. DISSOLVE PARTNERSHIP - - 220 
XLVII. MR. JABEZ MAKES A DISCOVERY - 22G 
XLVIII. MR. SETII PREENE EXECUTES A LITTLE COM- 
MISSION ----- 230 

XLIX. MR. MARSTON GOES TO CHURCH - 237 

L. 'FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE' - - - 243 

LI. EXIT EDWARD MARSTON - - - - 245 

LII. AN ESCAPED CONVICT - 251 

LIU. shakspeare's NURSE - 255 

LIV. AT HERITAGE HALL ... - 259 

LV. THE ARREST ----- 204 

LVI. A RESCUE ------ 271 

LVII. SQUIRE HERITAGE HAS A BAD ATTACK - - 274 

LVIII. DR. OLIVER BIRNIE'S NEW PATIENT - - 277 

LIX. A VISITOR FOR RUTH - 280 

LX. A SECRET MEETING - - - - 284 

LXI. A LATE VISITOR FOR MR. EGERTON - - 287 

LXII. A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA - - - 290 

LXIII. EDWARD MARSTON GOES HOME - 293 

LXIV. GURTH AND HECKETT - 297 

LXV. MR. JABEZ DUCK DISTINGUISHES HIMSELF AT 

LAST - - - - - - 299 

LXVI. BESS MAKES A CONFESSION - - - 304 

LXVII. GERTIE'S BIBLE ----- 306 

LXVIII. GERTIE GAINS HER HERITAGE - - - 310 

LXIX, AND LAST ---..-. 313 



ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE WRECK OF THE ' BON ESPOIR.' 

The ship was going down ! 

The sky was cloudless, the sun rode high in the heavens, and 
the waves glistened in the clear, bright light. It was a glorious 
summer day — a time when life pulsed joyously, and everything 
invited a man to forget his troubles, close his eyes, and lie bask- 
ing in the warmth. 

A soft, invigorating breeze fanned the pallid cheeks of the 
eager watchers ; the eyes worn with long vigils glistened in the 
silver light that fell on them ; the glowing orb above sent its 
rays upon haggard faces and seemed to make them smile. 

The ship was going down — going down in a calm sea. Here, 
shut off from all human aid — here, with no one to know the 
secret of that last hour of anguish and despair — Death had come 
to the fifty souls left on board the Bon Espoir. They were 
alone upon the trackless ocean. Around them lay leagues of 
lonely water. Their fate would be a mystery. As the weeks 
went on, and no tidings came of the ship, her name would be 
upon every tongue, and strange conjectures as to her fate would 
drop from thousands of lips. 

The world would picture the good ship caught in some furious 
tempest, dashed to pieces, and engulfed amid the roar of the 
billows, the howling of the wind, and the wild cries for help of 
terror-stricken men. 

But there was no tempest, no wind to howl — only a gentle - 
zephyr, that kissed the men's cheeks as gently as their mothers 
did in their happy childhoods ; no billows to seethe — only little 
playful wavelets that lapped against the ship's side gently, and 
seemed to say, ' You are ours ; presently we shall dance and 
sport above you, and toss your bodies softly to and fro in the 
merry sunshine.' 

A night had passed since the crew and passengers of the Bon 



2 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Expoir knew they were doomed. She had sprung a leak in mid- 
ocean on the previous night, in a lonely part, far out of the 
regular track, where for weeks and weeks never a sail might be 
teen. 

The night was dark. 

The sea was rough, and there had been a panic. The boats 
had been filled with passengers and some of the crew at once. 
The captain had shouted to them to keep near the ship, but the 
order had been disobeyed. When the light dawned those on 
board the Bon Espoir scanned the horizon, and saw no floating 
thing upon the waves. 

A light mist hung like a veil over the waters, narrowing their 
range of vision. The wind had sunk, the waves were at rest, 
and the sun bursting through the mist gleamed upon a vast 
expanse of smiling sea. 

Those who had stuck to the ship, hoping against hope that 
she might keep afloat yet until they fell into the track of other 
vessels, took counsel together and talked of a raft when every 
effort to save the vessel had been found useless. 

But they were in a latitude where the storm came swiftly on 
the calm ; where, with little warning, the baby waves swelled 
into gigantic billows, and the sighing zephyr, gathering sudden 
strength, shrieked aloud and lashed the sea to fiercest fury. 

The sailors who remained were principally foreigners. They 
had remained on the ship all night, refusing to work when they 
found the water gaining on them. They had gone below, torn 
their hair, beaten their breasts, cried aloud to the saints. Then 
they attacked the spirit store, and drank till they reeled down 
and slept a brutish, drunken sleep where they lay. 

The passengers still left were all men, but unskilled. With- 
out the aid of the sailors they could not make a raft. The 
sailors were not in a condition to move — certainly not to work. 
They had resigned themselves to their fate now. That strange 
sense of calm which comes mercifully even to cowards when 
hope is absolutely dead had fallen on them all. 

They stood leaning over the ship's sides, waiting for the end, 
their faces pale, their eyes haggard, and their thoughts far away. 

Some of them had wives and children at home, and the 
images of their beloved ones rose up before them. They seemed 
to pierce the space and see the place that would know them no 
more. One man whispered to those who stood near him that he 
had heard his little boy cry " Father !" and another said that in 
the night he had seen his wife hearing his little ones their 
prayers, and when they said " God bless papa !" she looked up, 
and her eyes were filled with tears. 

There were yet some hours between them and death, and they 
could still talk to each other. 

It seemed a relief to do so ; it created a companionship in 
misery ; they cheered each other with their voices. 



THE WRECK OF THE < BON ESPOIR.' 3 

There was a clergyman among the passengers, and, as ihe 
captain went away to his post after a few last words of en- 
couragement to the little band, the reverend gentleman asked 
their attention for a moment. 

Earnestly and calmly, as became an English gentleman in the 
presence of death, the man of God prayed to the Throne of 
Grace for strength and sustenance in this hour of supreme peril. 
Briefly he addressed his little flock of doomed ones, and then 
went his way, deeming the last moments of his f ellow-voyagei s 
sacred to themselves. 

As he was walking quietly aft, he felt a hand laid upon his 
shoulder. 

He turned, and found that one of the passengers had fol- 
lowed him. Ho was a quiet, gentlemanly man, who had hardly 
spoken to any one during the voyage. He was tall, dark, and 
well built, apparently a man of five or six and thirty. The face 
was pleasing at first glance, the features being well cut, and not 
too prominent. But on a closer inspection the defects were 
apparent. The lips were sensual; the eyes had that strange look 
which one sees in the hunted animal. The fear of something 
behind was apparent upon the face the moment the features were 
disturbed from their repose. A dark moustache covered the 
too thick upper lip, and the rest of the face was bronzed with 
long travel and exposure to sun and sea. One thing would 
instantly attract the attention of the ordinary observer — the 
strange way in which " indecision" was expressed in his counten- 
ance. His eyes and his lips would have revealed the secret of 
his character to a physiognomist at once. 

He had evidently made up his mind in a hurry to say some- 
thing to the clergyman. Directly that gentleman turned kindly, 
and asked what service he could render him, he hesitated. 

'I beg your pardon,' he said, after a pause ; 'but can I speak 
with you alone ?' 

They walked to a deserted part of the ship. 

' I am going to make an extraordinary statement to you,' said 
the passenger, his undecided eyes now looking in the clergy- 
man's face and now resting on the deck ; 'but I think I ought 
to. You are a clergyman, and I know no one better to whom 
in the hour of death I can confess a secret that should not die 
with me.' 

The clergyman surveyed his interviewer earnestly for a mo- 
ment. 

' Is it a crime ?' he asked. 

The passenger nodded. 

'I don't want to die with it on my mind,' he murmured. ' I 
fancy when the — the end comes, I shall die easier.' 

' My friend,' said the clergyman, kindly, ' do not imagine that 
a confession at the last moment takes guilt from the soul. To 
confess a crime to one who is about to share your fate is, 

1-3 



4 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

perhaps, rather a superstitious than a religious deed. Let us 
understand each other. "We both believe that we are about to 
die. You confess to me, perhaps thinking that no possible harm 
can come to you from it— that you run no such risk as you 
would in confessing under other circumstances.' 

' I haven't thought about that,' answered the passenger, almost 
in a whisper. ' Let me tell some human being my secret, and 
it will at least be off my mind. I feel as if the secret would 
choke me if I kept it any longer. I cannot die with murder on 
my soul.' 

' Murder !' exclaimed the clergyman, starting back ; then, re- 
covering himself, he added, ' Speak on ; but I warn you that 
whatever you tell me, should we, by the Lord's will, be saved, I 
will keep as no secret. Neither shall you deny it. Write.' 

The clergyman drew out his pocket-book, and handed it, with 
a pencil, to the passenger. 

The latter hesitated. 

Presently, with a supreme effort, he wrote : — 

' On board the Bon Esjwir. 
' The ship is sinking rapidly. I, Gurth Egerton, believing 
that I am about to die, do solemnly declare that on the night of 
the 15th of September, 18 — , I stabbed my cousin, Ralph Eger- 
ton, in a gambling-house, kept by a man named Heckett, and 
that the wound proved fatal. I freely make this confession, and 
may God forgive me. 

'Signed, Gurth Egerton.' 

The clergyman took the book from him and read it. Then he 
wrote something beneath it. 

The confession once made, a swift revulsion of feeling came 
over Gurth Egerton. He reached out his hand, as though he 
would have snatched it back. 

The clergyman closed the book and thrust it into his pocket. 

' Unhappy sinner !' he said ; ' even now you repent the ac- 
knowledgment of your awful crime. Pray, for your time is 
short. Remember, should God spare me, I will use every effort 
to bring you to justice.' 

As the last words left his lips, and Gurth Egerton, with a 
white face, was about to turn away, a loud cry rang out from 
the look-out man. 

'A sail! A sail !' 

The doomed men rushed to the side of the vessel and strained 
their eyes. In that wild moment of sudden hope all was for- 
gotten. Gurth Egerton flew to the vessel's side. 

Yes. Ear away in the distance, but still visible, were the 
white sails of a ship. 

Hope sprang up with renewed vigour in every breast. Strono- 
men laughed and cried and hugged each other. A strange 
delirium animated them, 



THE WRECK OF THE ' BON ESPOIR: 



5 



One or two of the sailors awoke from their drunken sleep, and 
came staggering on deck. 

The excitement was at its height, each man shouting above 
his neighbour what was to be done to attract the passing ship's 
attention, when suddenly the vessel heeled over, there was a 
gurgling sound, the roar and rush of a huge volume of water 
pouring in, and then down like a stone, to the depths of the 
ocean, went the Bon Espoir. 

a o c ft ft 

The waves danced and glittered in the sunlight. Over the 
spot where the ship and her living freight had sunk the blue 
waves closed, and there was nothing to tell of their vanished 
prey. 

A bottle bobbed about, carried now here now there by the 
playful waves. As the Bon Espoir sank, the clergyman's hand 
had hurled it far out to sea. It contained a leaf torn from 
his pocket-book. 

The ship Diana, bound for Baltimore, sailed late that after- 
noon over the spot where the Bon Espoir had sunk. 

A sailor who was in the rigging cried out that he could see 
something that looked like a barrel floating in the sea some dis- 
tance away. 

A boat was manned and put off. 

In half an hour it returned with a strange story. 

To the barrel they had seen in the water clung a man in the 
last stage of exhaustion. They had released him, and brought 
him with them. 

Tenderly the sailors lifted a half -drowned body from the stern 
of the boat, and it was hoisted on board. 

The surgeon of the Diana took it in charge, and pronounced 
it to be still alive. 

Presently the half-drowned man opened his eyes. 

' What ship ?' asked the captain, when he had recovered suffi- 
ciently to speak. 

'From the Bon Espoir,'' answered the man, feebly. 'She 
sprang a leak and went down.' 

' Who are you ?' 

The man hesitated a moment. His senses were evidently 
half scattered. 

'My name is George Englehardt, of Philadelphia,' he said 
presently. 

Then he looked round anxiously. 

' Are there any saved except me ?' lie asked, in a faint whisper. 

' Not a soul.' 

The man heaved a deep sigh, and relapsed once more into 
unconsciousness, 



6 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

CHAPTER II. 

TOPSEY TURVEY SEES A GHOST. 

I don't imagine that Mrs. Turvey had ever read Cowper ; in 
fact, it is exceedingly improbable that Mrs. Turvey's poetical 
readings had ever extended beyond the works of the late 
lamented Dr. Watts. This talented author had, it is pretty 
certain, come under her notice, for it is on record that she once 
reprimanded her niece, Topsey, for putting her fingers into the 
marmalade-pot, by telling her that — 

' Satan finds some mischief still 
For idle hands to do.' 

And fancying that this solemn warning by itself might not be 
sufficient, she had added to it a picture of the delights of an 
active life by requesting Topsey to contemplate the habits of 
the busy bee, who ' improves each shining hour by gathering 
honey all the day from every opening flower.' A quotation 
which was singularly inapt under the circumstance, for, substi- 
tute marmalade for honey, and open jam-pot for opening flower, 
and Topsey had been really doing her best to imitate the bright 
example aforesaid. 

Topsey might have retorted to this effect had she been a sharp 
child, but unfortunately she was not. So she just wiped her 
sticky little fingers on her pinafore, looked up with a roguish 
smile at her ' aunty,' and darted from the room, to find as much 
mischief (or marmalade) as she could elsewhere. 

Mrs. Turvey and Topsey, her twelve-year-old niece, were the 
sole inhabitants of a great old-fashioned house in a street near 
Eussell Square. Mrs. Turvey was housekeeper to Mr. Gurth 
Egerton, a gentleman who was travelling abroad for the benefit 
of his health, and feeling lonely with fourteen rooms all to her- 
self, not to speak of cellars, dark corners, and gloomy passages, 
she had, in an evil hour, obtained permission of her brother, a 
widower and a railway guard, to take his little daughter into 
her keeping, and so have the echoes of the desolate mansion 
occasionally awakened with a human voice. 

Topsey woke the echoes, and no mistake. The echoes had a 
bad time of it if they were at all sleepy echoes. They did have 
forty winks now and then in the day, when Topsey ran errands ; 
but as a rule they were only allowed to drop off and take their 
natural rest when Topsey took hers — at night. 

See what a mischievous little thing this Topsey is. She has 
actually kept Cowper waiting while we are attending to her. 

Let us hark back to Cowper and Mrs. Turvey at once. 

There" is a well-known passage in 'The Winter's Evening,' 
which I never read, even on a hot Jane day, without wishing it 



TOPSEY TURVEY SEES A GHOST. 7 

was a winter's evening, and I could take the poet's advice. Thus 
it runs : — 

' Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast, 
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round, 
And while the bubbling and loud hissing urn 
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups 
That cheer but not inebriate wait on each, 
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.' 

Now Mrs. Turvey, I will venture to say, had never read this 
charming piece of advice, but she was certainly putting it into 
practice. Tt ivas a winter's evening, singularly enough, and she 
had stirred the fire, closed the shutters fast, and let fall the 
curtains. The table stood too near the fire for a sofa to be 
wheeled round, but three chairs were set in nice convenient 
places, the urn was bubbling and hissing away as cheerily as 
possible, and three cups and saucers stood waiting in a quiet and 
contented manner to take their proper part in the programme of 
the evening's entertainment. 

Cowper doesn't mention muffins, beautifully browned and 
lavishly buttered, standing on the hob, and he is discreetly silent 
as to a glass dish of home-made marmalade. Neither can I 
discover any reference to a fat black pussy dozing, the picture of 
sleek contentment, on the hearthrug. In these particulars Mrs. 
Turvey had, I make bold to assert, improved upon the poet. 
But then Cowper only proposed to welcome the evening in. 
Mrs. Turvey's welcome was designed for something with a more 
substantial appetite. 

Don't imagine I intend to convey that Mrs. Turvey's visitor 
was going to eat the cat. That was always on the hearthrug. 
The marmalade and the muffins were the specialities which de- 
noted the expected advent of company. 

There were three cups and saucers set. Now, allotting one to 
Mrs. Turvey and one to Topsey, we might, by setting our wits 
to work, arrive at the conclusion that only one visitor was ex- 
pected. Our wits would have performed the task confided to 
them most creditably if this was the result of their labour, for 
there is a knock at the door, and presently Topsey, who has 
been upstairs on the qui vive, comes dancing down into the 
housekeeper's little room with the intelligence that ' Pie's come.' 

' He ' follows very closely at Miss Topsey 's heels. 'He ' is a 
fat, smiling gentleman of fifty, and so shining that it seems 
almost a waste to burn the gas when he is in the room. 

His bald head shines, his face shines, his coat shines, his boots 
shine, his buttons shine, his black stock shines, and his old- 
fashioned stand-up collar shines. 

He smiles a sweet smile at Mrs. Turvey, and when he opens 
his mouth you see that he has white shiny teeth. 

' You're late, Mr. Jabez,' says Mrs. Turvey, as, having shaken 



8 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS 

hands with her visitor and motioned him to the tea-table, she 
seats herself and prepares to do the honours. 

' Business, my dear madam, business. Nothing but business 
■would have made me late for this appointment, you may be 
sure,' answers the gentleman, shining all over his face, till he 
reflects the teapot and the teapot reflects him. 

' Ah !' sighs Mrs. Turvey, ' business is a strange thing !' _ 
' Yes, my dear madam, it is, and never stranger than in our 
line. Muffins — thank you ; I adore muffins. I've been in our 
line thirty years, Mrs Turvey, and our business gets stranger 

every day. Now our business to-night, for instance ' 

Ahem !' 

Mr. Jabez is so suddenly interrupted by the warning eye of 
Mrs. Turvey that he gives a little cough, and swallows a little 
piece of muffin, and the redness which ensues, together with the 
extra shininess, makes him look like a setting sun sinking slowly 
below the horizon of Mrs. Turvey's tea-table. 

Mrs. Turvey's glance has implied that the conversation is to 
be deferred till Topsey is out of the room. Let us take advan- 
tage of the lull in the conversation to properly introduce the 
worthy housekeeper's visitor 

Mr. Jabez Duck is a clerk in the employ of that eminent firm 
of solicitors, Messrs. Grigg and Limpet, Lincoln's Inn. Messrs. 
Grigg and Limpet are the family solicitors of Mr. G-urth 
Egerton, and have the entire management of his affairs during 
his long absence abroad Mr. Duck is the clerk specially en- 
trusted with this part of the firm's business, and occasions for 
visits to the house have from time to time arisen. 

Mr. Duck pays Mrs. Turvey her housekeeping allowance, sees 
her with regard to accounts that are applied for, authorises 
repairs, and comes occasionally to refer to papers and documents, 
or to see if they are in the library of the firm's absent client. 
This is the business part of the acquaintanceship. But beyond 
this there is a little personal friendship. Mrs. Turvey is a 
spinster, in spite of her matronly appellation, and Mr. Duck is 
a bachelor. Mr. Duck stays occasionally to take a friendly cup 
of tea after his business has been transacted. Confidences have 
been exchanged ; under the potent influence of the cheering cup 
their hearts have been opened, and little secrets have oozed out. 
Curiosity has been awakened on both sides, and the affairs of 
the absent Mr. Egerton have become deeply interesting to 
them. 

Mr. Duck has come to tea this evening by special invitation, 
for something has occurred of the deepest interest. The firm 
have news of a very startling character ; and what more natural 
than that, having called in the morning and hinted that he 
should perhaps have something of great importance to communi- 
cate, Mr. Duck should have been requested to come to tea that 
evening and have a quiet chat ? 



TOPSEY TURVEY SEES A GHOST. 9 

Mrs. Turvcy hated to hear important intelligence on the door- 
step, or to have a secret imparted to her in the vulgar <daylight, 
when brushes and brooms were about. If there was a nice 
delightful mystery to be revealed, or a little scandal to be whis- 
pered, let her drink it with her tea, after her work was done, 
and when she could sit still and enjoy it with muffin and 
marmalade. 

Mr. Duck was quite of her opinion, and so the invitation had 
been readily accepted. 

The only difficulty was Topsey ; but this, with great diplo- 
macy, Mrs. Turvey had got over. 

The servant next door was going to the Polytechnic that even- 
ing, and had promised to take Topsey with her directly Mrs. 
Turvey hinted that her niece had few opportunities of going out, 
and she thought that the ghost entertainment was one which, 
from an educational point of view, no child should miss. 

. The glance with which Mrs. Turvey favoured Mr. Duck was 
therefore intended to inform him that he was to hold his tongue 
on the important matter for the present, but that by-and-by he 
would have an opportunity of speaking unreservedly. 

Mrs. Turvey had not calculated upon also sending the good 
man's piece of muffin the wrong way. That was an unforeseen 
contingency, from which, however, Mr. Duck speedily recovered, 
and shone as placidly as ever. 

When tea was over, and Topsey had been packed off to see 
the ghost, with instructions not only for the evening but for her 
entire conduct in life, with many warnings not to tumble under 
'buses or to leave go her friend's hand, and with strict injunc- 
tions not to get entangled in any machinery that might happen 
to be going at the Polytechnic, Mrs. Turvey settled herself down 
and prepared to hear Mr. Duck's narrative. 

Mr. Duck commenced by solemnly lifting his eyes to the 
ceiling, and exclaiming, in dramatic tones : 

'Mrs. Turvey, madam, Mr. Gurth Egerton is there !' 

Mrs. Turvey started up with a little scream, and glanced in 
amazement at the ceiling. Then she looked at Mr. Duck, to see 
if he was in his right senses. 

' Where ?' she gasped, presently. 

' In heaven, ma'am,' answered the gentleman ; then, dropping 
his voice and glancing significantly at the carpet, he added, ' I 
trust he's not there.' 

' Lawks a mercy, Mr. Duck, how awful ! You don't mean to 
say that the master's dead ?' 

' I don't say positively he is, ma'am, and I can't say posi- 
tively that he is not, but the chances are that he is there now.' 
Mr. Duck had glanced at the carpet as he spoke, but he instantly 
corrected the mistake, and looked up solemnly at the ceiling. 

' Mr. Duck,' said Mrs. Turvey, half crying, ' don't trifle with 
my feelings. I've been alone in this house so long, I've lost all 



io ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

the nerve I ever had. If the master's dead I'd rather not stop 
here. I shouldn't like to be in a dead mans house. He was 
never easy in his life, poor man, and — and ■' 

' And he's just one of those men you'd expect to come wan- 
dering about his house after death — eh, Mrs. Turvey ?' 

' Well,' answered the lady, glancing uneasily round, ' it's a 
dreadful thing to say, but I always did believe, and I always 
shall believe, as the master had — had ' 

' Had something on his conscience that wouldn't let him rest. 
Exactly, Mrs. Turvey.' 

' Lor' how you do catch me up. Well, yes. It's no good 
mincing matters. But how and where did he die ?' 

' How and where we can't exactly tell,' answered Mr. Duck ; 
' but from information received, as they say at Scotland Yard, 
he left America in the Bon E.ywir, that was wrecked last 
summer ; and as he has never been heard of since, the conclusion 
is obvious.' 

' But he might not have come in the Bnnri/s Paw.' 

'We are certain that he did sail in her. The information 
that he was among the passengers reached our firm only this 
week, though the wreck took place six months ago. But the 
information is correct; the owners confirm it upon application.' 

' But he may be heard of yet. There were some persons 
saved.' 

' Every one of them is accounted for. The boats were all 
picked up, and the passengers our firm have written to all state 
that a Mr. Gurth Egerton was on board. The Diana passed the 
scene of the wreck, and reported, on her arrival at Baltimore, 
that she had saved one passenger — a Mr. George Englehardt. 
Besides, if he had been saved we should, of course, have heard 
from him. Dr. Birnie was his intimate friend, and is left 
executor to the will. Dr. Birnie agrees with the firm that Mr. 
Gurth Egerton went down, my dear Mrs. Turvey, in the Bon 

When she realised that her master was actually dead, Mrs. 
Turvey felt she ought to cry, and she begged Mr. Duck to 
excuse her while she did so. What was to become of her ? 
She'd lived in the house this ten years, first as servant and then 
as housekeeper, and of course it wouldn't be kept on. Oh, it 
was very dreadful, and she didn't know what she should do. 

Mr. Duck let her have a good cry, and then he shone upon her. 

' My poor soul,' he said, when the paroxysm was over, ' you 
distress yourself needlessly. I think I may tell you, without a 
breach of confidence, that you are provided for. The will was 
opened by the firm to-day.' 

Mrs. Turvey sobbed again. 

Mr. Duck edged his chair a little nearer to her 

' Susan,' he said, softly, ' I shouldn't have spoken go abruptly 
I i'.t f or this. Oh, Susan, you need never want a home,' 



TOPSEY TURVEY SEES A GHOST. II 

Mrs. Turvcy looked up through her tears and beheld the 
shining face of Messrs. Grigg and Jiimpet'sclerk so close to hers 
that it almost made her blink. At least that must have been 
the reason that she turned her head away. 

Mr Duck took her hand. 

'Susan,' ho said, .pressing the imprisoned member gently 
ngiinst his shiny satin waistcoat, 'don't spurn me. You are 
alone in the world now, but I can offer you a shelter. 

Come, weep on my bosom, my own stricken deer, 
Though the world all turn from thee, thy shelter is here. 

Those are lines, Susan, which I composed myself the first time 
I saw yon, but which I dared not utter till now.' 

The stricken deer sighed, but declined to weep upon the shiny 
bosom of her adorer. 

1 It is very sudden,' she faltered. ' I — I really never thought 
there was anything ' 

Jabez assured her there had always been a suspicion ; that now 
it had ripened iuto a fact. 

For an hour or more the conversation was a mixture of 
poetical quotations, business suggestions, reminiscences of Mr. 
Gui'th Fgerton, and tender declarations in Mr. Duck s shiniest 
and sweetest manner. 

Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door. 

Mrs. Turvcy jumped up from her chair and straightened her 
cap. 

' Who is it '?' exclaimed Mr. Duck, nervously. 

' "Why, it must be Topsey.' said the lady, after a moment's 
thought. ' Dear me ! I'd no idea it was so late. I think you'd 
better go, Mr. Duck." 

' And when shall I call again, Susan ? — for your answer.' 

Mr. Duck showed his shiny teeth and rolled his shiny eyes so 
sweetly that Mrs. Turvey could not resist him anymore. 

' To-morrow, Jabez.' 

There was a soft sound as of the sudden collision of a pair of 
lips and a cheek, and then Mrs. Turvey, followed by Mr. Duck, 
went upstairs to the front door. 

It was Topsey brought back. Mr, Duck bade Mrs. Turvey 
good-night on the steps as though nothiug had happened, for 
Topsey's sharp little ears were open, and he went off whistling 

Tis my delight on a shiny night,' and Topsey went downstairs 
with her aunt. 

She was full of the ghost. She acted the ghost. She showed 
her aunty how the ghost looked, and how it rose mysteriously 
from nothing and walked towards its victim. 

3 Irs. Turvey did not enter very heartily into the scene. She 
did not like ghosts at any time, but to-night, when her master's 
death had been so suddenly communicated to her, she positively 
hated ghosts. 



12 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Do what she would, she could not shake off the idea that she 
was in a dead man's house. All the stories of uneasy spirits 
visiting their earthly dwelling-places floated across her brain, and 
presently she turned sharply to the child, and told her not to 
chatter but to get ready for bed. 

They slept on the ground floor, in a room that had been a ser- 
vant's room in the days when Mr. Egerton kept up an establish- 
ment. 

Now in her confusion at parting with her elderly admirer 
right under Topsey's watchful eye, Mrs. Turvey had forgotten 
to fasten up the front door. As a matter of fact, she bad closed 
it so carelessly that the lock had not caught at all. 

She suddenly recollected her omission to examine the fasten- 
ings with her usual care, so she sent Topsey to do it, while she 
got the bread and cheese out of the larder for her frugal 
supper. 

Topsey ran up and got half-way down the hall. Then she 
started back, trembling in every limb. It was quite dark in the 
passage, but the door was slowly swinging back on its hinges. 
As it opened and the pale light of the street lamp wandered in, 
the figure of a man with a face ghastly in the glare of the flicker- 
ing illumination from without glided towards her. Her brain 
was full of the ghost illusion she had seen that evening. This 
was just how the apparition had walked. 

Slowly it came nearer and nearer to her. 

With a sudden effort the terrified child found her voice and 
gave a wild cry. 

' Aunty !' she shrieked. ' Save me ! The ghost ! the ghost !' 

Mrs. Turvey ran upstairs, terrified at the child's cries. 

She reached the hall, held up her arms, and fell down in a 
swoon. 

The sea had given up its dead. 

There, in the hall of his earthly dwelling, stood the ghost of 
Grurth Egerton. 



CHAPTER III. 

MR. EDWARD MAESTON MEETS AN OLD FRIEXD. 

'Now, gentlemen, please !' 

The landlord of the Blue Pigeons had one eye on the clock 
and the other on his customers. It wanted only five minutes to 
closing time, and the patrons of the Blue Pigeons required a 
great deal of soft persuasion, as a rule, before they shook them- 
selves up from their free-and-easy attitudes at the counter and 
on the benches, and filed out into the street. 

On this especial night there was every excuse for the apparent 
inattention with which they received the landlord's hint. Inside 



MR. ED IV. MARSTON MEETS AM OLD FRIEND. 13 

it was warm and cheery, the brilliant gas flared upon polished 
pewter, and gay-coloured glass, through the open door of the 
bar-parlour the ruddy glare of the fire could be seen dancing on 
the hearth, and everything was suggestive of warmth and light 
and comfort. 

Outside — oh, what a night it was outside ! The rain was 
coming down in torrents, the streets were seas of slush, and 
every time the big door swung open to admit a benighted 
traveller a roaring blast of east wind followed him to give him a 
final buffet, and seemed to say, ' Take that ; and I'll give you 
another when you come out.' 

It was no wonder the Blue Pigeons was crammed such a night 
as this ; it was no wonder that once under the hospitable portals, 
and sheltered from the rain and the wind, the customers hesi- 
tated to leave the haven behind them. 

' Xow, gentlemen, please !' 

This time the landlord put a little more determination into 
bis warning note; and gave the sign to the potman to lower the 
gas and fidget with the front door. 

Reluctantly the gentlemen and ladies drained their glasses, 
wiped their lips, and shook themselves together preparatory to 
turning out into the night. Coat-collars were turned up, shawls 
were flung over battered bonnets, hands were thrust deep into 
trousers pockets, there was a little laughing, more growling, and 
a great deal of swearing, mixed with maudlin farewells and 
some rough horseplay, and then the motley crowd of drinkers 
oozed through the swing doors, melted gradually, and vanished. 

Where to ? 

To foul alleys and rookeries, to cellars and human kennels, to 
low lodging-houses and tumble-down hovels. 

The lights of the Blue Pigeons go out one by one, silence 
steals over the street, and the great crowd of drinkers sepai'ates, 
and each component part of it wends his or her way to some 
place which is ' home,' — some place — mean, vile, and awful 
though it be — which contains the scanty household gods and 
something near and dear. 

Although the Blue Pigeons is within a stone's throw of the 
Seven Dials, its immediate vicinity is wrapped in silence when 
the clock strikes one. As a rule the sounds of revelry and riot 
linger in the narrow streets long after the public has disgorged 
its prey, and men and women stand about at the street corners, 
and joke and laugh and quarrel, despite the rough injunction to 
move on bestowed upon them by the especial policeman told off 
to superintend their conduct. 

To-night the rain is so pitiless and the air so keen and merci- 
less that the lowest and meanest of the populace have hurried 
off to such shelter as they can find. A thick fog, too, has begun 
to settle down upon the scene of desolation, and it is not a time 
for the proverbial dog to be out of doors. 



14 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

But there is one customer who still hovers about the closed 
doors of the Blue Pigeons. 

He had been inside from nine until closing time, and has come 
out at the last moment with the rest. 

He had stood about unnoticed among the little groups, shift- 
ing about from one to the other, and pretending to belong to 
them. In the Dials a pot of beer does duty for a good many 
mouths sometimes, and neither the landlord nor the potman 
noticed the stranger sufficiently to discover that during the entire 
evening he had been enjoying the warmth and light and the 
smell of the spirits and tobacco-smoke without spending one 
penny for the good of the house. 

Edward Marston hadn't anything to spend or he would have 
spent it. He had made a dive into the house to escape the 
storm, and it had sheltered him for an hour or two. Now the 
doors were shut, and he was out in the streets again— homeless ! 
penniless ! 

' I'm on my beam ends dow, and no mistake,' he said to him- 
self. ' What the dickens am I to do 'i I suppose I'd better go 
and get quietly into the river.' 

He passed his hands over his soaked jacket, looked up at the 
sky and laughed. 

' I don't think I need go to the river,' he muttered ; ' if I stay 
here a little longer, I can be drowned where I am. I'll look 
about for an arch or a gateway ; I may as well stand in tbe dry, 
if it doesn't cost any more than this.' 

Edward Marston was a gentleman. You saw it in the face 
under the shapeless billycock hat ; you saw it in the thin hands 
that every now and then wiped the rain-drops from his beard 
and moustache ; you saw it in his bearing as he stepped from 
the poor shelter of the Blue Pigeons doorway and made a dart 
round the corner in search of a gateway. 

He was evidently accustomed to something very like his pre- 
sent position, and there was nothing startlingly new to him in 
the utter emptiness of his pockets ; but it was the first time he 
had been homeless. 

He had been in America for some years, having left his native 
land in a hurry. He had returned a few weeks since, almost 
penniless, and tried in vain to drift into some means of gaining 
a livelihood. Every avenue was closed against him, for his past 
life was a sealed book, and he had no one to speak a good word 
for him. So he had hung on to existence till his last copper 
was spent, and now he was without even a shelter for the night. 

He had been turned out of his lodging that morning, and 
everything he had had been detained for the four weeks' rent 
which he had promised again and again, and which he had never 
been able to pay. 

A few papers had been all that he had been allowed to secure 
from his scanty belongings, and these only because they were of 
no value to any one but himself. 



J/R. ED IV. MARSTON MEE TS AN OLD FRIEND. 1 5 

As he hurried round the corner in search of a convenient gate- 
way in which to spend the night, he drew his hands out of his 
trousers pockets to shake from the brim of his hat a small pool 
of water which had begun to trickle down his neck. He drew 
the lining of his pocket up at the same time, and a piece of 
folded paper fell on the ground. He picked it up, opened it, 
and read it. 

It was an old acceptance, torn with lying long in folds and 
dirty with being carried about. 

' Birnie's acceptance for £500,' said Marston, as he read it 
over. ' Ten years old, and not worth the paper it's written on. 
I wonder how that got in my trousers pocket, instead of being 
with the other papers ! I must hav« put it in in the hurry. I 
wonder whether Birnie's alive or dead ! If he's alive, I hope 
he's as badly off as I am — curse him !' 

He folded the old acceptance carefully, and put it back in his 
pocket. 

' Birnie owed me more than, this when I left England. By 
Jove, if I had the thousandth part of it now I should be happy. I 
could get out of this confounded rain and lie quiet a bit. I wonder 
what's become of the old set — if they've all gone to the dogp, 
like I have ! Egerton was a queer fish, but he had rich relations. 
Ralph must have left a lot of money behind him, and Gurth 
Egerton would have some of it by hook or by crook. I wonder 
what the upshot of that affair was.' 

Walking along and thinking, with his eyes on the streaming 
streets, he was suddenly aroused from his reverie by a vigorous 
' Hi, my man !' 

A carriage, evidently a doctor's brougham, was drawn up in 
the middle of the roadway, and a gentleman was leaning out 
.f the carriage window, and shouting at him to arrest his at - 
tention. 

' Hi, my man !' said the gentleman, peering through the fog, 
as Marston looked up, ' can you tell me which is Little Queer 
Street about here ? This fog makes all the streets look alike.' 

' No, I can't,' answered Marston ; ' I'm a stranger myself.' 

' Well, would you mind looking for me ? My coachman 
can't see the names written up at the corners from the road, 
and I can't tramp up and doAvn the neighbourhood in the rain — 
I should get wet.' 

' What about me ?' asked Marston, with an offended tone in 
his voice. 

The occupant of the carriage gave a short little laugh. 

' My good friend, I don't think a little more rain will do you 
much harm ; you don't appear to have been under an umbrella 
lately.' 

Marston remembered that he was a penniless outcast, soaked 
to the skin ; for the moment he had forgotten it, and fancied he 
was a gentleman walking home. 



io" ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' What do you want me to look for ?' he said, altering his 
tone. 

' Little Queer Street, No. 15 ; and if you find it I'll give you a 
shilling.' 

Marston walked up one side street and down another, peering 
through the fog towards those wonderful arrangements in white 
and black with which the Board of "Works are good enough to 
label the street corners, and which are so high up and so small 
that an ordinary-sighted person requires a ladder and a magnify- 
ing glass before he can tell what they are, and at night even 
this would be insufficient unless accompanied by an electric 
light. 

After much wandering up and down, and straining of the 
eyeballs and cross-examination of a solitary policeman, who was 
standing up out of the wet, and enjoying a quiet pipe down a 
particularly deserted side street, Marston discovered where Little 
Queer Street was, and ascertained which side of the way and 
which end was honoured by the presence of that No. 15, which 
was evidently about to be visited by a gentleman who kept his 
carriage. 

He came back with the intelligence, and communicated it to the 
coachman. 

' Wait a minute, Cook, I haven't rewarded this poor fellow for 
his trouble,' said the doctor, for the coachman was whipping up 
the horses, without waiting for such a trifle. 

The doctor fumbled first in his trousers pockets, then iu his 
waistcoat, and then in his overcoat. 

' Cook,' he exclaimed, presently, ' have you got a shilling 2J 

' No, sir.' 

' Dear me, how very peculiar ! no more have I. My good man 
I'm very sorry — most extraordinary thing— but I've come out 
without any money. Here, however, is my card. Call to-morrow 
and I will leave a shilling with the servant for you. Drive on, 
Cook.' 

Cook, the coachman, whipped up his horses and shot off, 
splashing Marston with mud, and leaving him crestfallen and 
disappointed in the middle of the road, with a card in his hand. 

' My luck !' he said, as the light of the carriage vanished in 
the mist ; ' my infernal luck ! That shilling would have been 
a bed and breakfast. I earned that shilling, and I never 
wanted it more in my life. What the dickens does a two-horse 
doctor do here, I wonder ! I thought he was sent by Providence 
to give me a shilling, at first. Bah ! Providence turned me up 
long ago. Let's look at the card.' 

He came out of the roadway, and stood under a lamp-post to 
read the name of his debtor. 

The light flickered and blew to and fro in the night air, and 
the rain, driven against the glass, made a mist through which the 
rays fell feebly. But feebly as they fell on the small piece of 



-Vtl 15, LITTLE QUEER STREET 17 

pasteboard and the face of the man who read it, they showed the 
sudden gleam of joy that flashed into his white damp face. 

For a moment he stood speechless as one dazed ; then he read 
the card aloud, to make sure that he was not dreaming : 

'Db. Oliver BruxiE, 
' The Zo<V, 

' Li ] at Tree I? ■■ad, 

'St. Johns Wood.' 

' Oliver TJii-nie ! ; he exclaimed, triumphantly. 'And keeps a 
carriage and pair ! By Jove ! Providence has not deserted me. 
I'm glad I didn't recognise him in .the dim light of caniage 
lamps, or I should have cried oat and betrayed myself. I can 
do better by waiting, perhaps. Ah. Mr. Oliver Birnie ! it isn't 
a shilling I've earned to-night — it's many and many a golden 
pound. I've one bird safe, at any rate. Xow I've only Gurth 
Egerton to find. If he's gone up in the world too, you are all 
right for a little while, Xed Marston.' 



CHAPTER IV, 

NO. FIFTEEN. LITTLE QUEER STEEET. 

Little Queer Steeet, Seven Dials, is not a particularly nice 
street to live in, but as every house in it is inhabited to the 
utmost extent of its inhabitable capacity, it is evidently a street 
in which a great many people are very glad to live. 

Squalor and vice and misery, and everything that can make 
life horrible, find their way into Little Queer Street, but fail to 
frighten the inhabitants. Dirt they like— it suits them; most 
of them have been brought up from infancy in close contact 
with it, and would feel uncomfortable without it. As to vice 
and misery, they have seen so much of them that any terror such 
things might once have possessed has long since worn off. They 
may be real spectres to some people, but to them they are only 
clumsy turnip-headed bogies, and he must be a very young native 
of the locality indeed who would betray the suspicion of a 
shudder at the sight of either. 

All day long the muddy roadway is blocked with costers' 
barrows, who drive a roaring trade in cheap crockery, staL 1 
vegetables, doubtful meat, and still more doubtful fish, which 
one class looks upon as abominations, and another holds in high 
esteem as luxuries. 

There are shops, too, in Little Queer Street. Such shops ! 
Dusty, dirty, barn-looking rooms, where sallow-faced women sit, 
dishevelled and ragged, amid old boots and shoes, tumbled and 
dirty dresses, old coats, and promiscuous heaps of cast-oil 
wearing apparel. 

Sometimes the shop is not large enough to contain the varied 



1 8 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

assortment of ' goods ' in which the proprietor deals, and a por- 
tion of the narrow pavement is taken into the service. 

Rows of hoots— very much worn at the heels, and very shabby 
about the uppers, but thickly coated with a blacking which is 
rather sticky than shiny— stand in military array to tempt the 
shoeless. 

But though the habits and customs and source of income of 
the inhabitants of the lower portion of the houses in Little 
Queer Street are thus openly demonstrated, the rest is all mystery. 
How the second, third, and fourth floors get their living, what 
they are, and what they do, it would be a difficult matter to 
explain. Most of them evidently have very small incomes and 
very large families. There are more children of all sizes and 
conditions in Little Queer Street than in any other street in the 
United Kingdom. 

Almost every female carries a baby, and some females carry 
two. There are children in heaps at the corner of the street, 
children on the doorsteps, children in the gutter, children under 
the wheels of hansom cabs, up the lamp-posts, hanging over the 
window-sills, crowding the staircases, lying in the areas, rolling 
with the cabbage-stalks under the stalls, swarming and crawling 
all day long among the crowd, laughing, crying, screaming, and 
playing, unheeded, uncared for, unowned. 

Their hair is rough and matted, their little hands are black 
with mud, their faces are grimed with dirt, and often, alas ! 
scarred with disease. Sometimes they get lost, every now and 
then one or two will be run over by a cab or a brewer's dray, 
and sometimes an epidemic will swoop down upon Little Queer 
Street, and thin the ranks of the great gutter army, and make 
more room for the remainder. 

All day long these human waifs loiter in the street, at the peril 
of life and limb. They have no regular meal-times. They get 
a slice of bread-and-butter, occasionally a slice of bread-and- 
treacle, at irregular iperiods, and this constitutes their staple 
sustenance. 

Many of them are turned out at seven, when mother and 
father go to work, and called in again at whatever hour it may 
suit father and mother to return. It is considered safer to leave 
them outside than in. Out of doors they may get killed ; in- 
doors they might damage the ' furniture ' or set fire to the house. 

Two days after Edward Marston's strange meeting with Dr. 
Birnie, a little girl sat at one of the open doorways in Little 
Queer Street, gazing vacantly at the busy scene around her. A 
stranger would have been instantly attracted by the extraordi- 
nary appearance of her face. It was quite clean. Her hair was 
neatly brushed, and over her plain little brown merino frock she 
aitually wore a white pinafore. Not only would a stranger be 
struck with amazement at the phenomenal appearance — a clean 
and. tidy little girl on a Little Quesr Street door-step— but the 



NO. is, LITTLE OUEER STREET 19 

inhabitants have been for a long time so struck with it that 
Gertie Heckett, the child in question, has become quite a local 
celebrity. 

' That gal '11 die a orful death,' said Mrs. Maloney, of the fish- 
shop at the corner, to her next-door neighbour, Mrs. Moss. 
'Larst night she came for a pen'orth o' fried fish, and I guv her 
a ha'penny too much change out o' sixpence, and she guv it me 
back.' 

' Lor,' replied Mrs. Moss, ' you don't say so ! I fancy she can't 
be quite right 'ere.' And Mrs. Moss put a very dirty and very 
fat forefinger on her matronly brow. 

' I don't believe she's old Heckett's gal at all,' added Mrs. 
Maloney, as she stared hard across the road to the doorway where 
sat the unconscious object of her criticism. ' It's my belief she's 
been stole, like the gal in the play as was a nobleman's dorter, 
arter all.' 

What Mrs. Moss would have replied to this suggestion can 
never be known, for at this moment the attention of both ladies 
was attracted by the very extraordinary conduct of the child in 
question. 

Gertie Heckett, who had long been wistfully looking up the 
street, suddenly leaped up and made a joyful dash at a gentle- 
man who was elbowing his way through the crowd. 

He was a good-looking, well-dressed gentleman, of about eight- 
and-thirty. Gertie Heckett's pretty face lit up with pleasure 
the moment she caught sight of him. She was by his side in a 
moment, and looking up into his face with her wistful blue 
eyes. 

' Oh, Dr. Birnie, I'm so glad you've come. Grandfather s 
worse — I'm sure he is.' 

' What makes you think he's worse, my child ?' 

'Because he gets crosser and crosser, and' — here a flush of 
shame came upon her cheeks and she held her head down — ' and 
because he swears at me worse than ever.' 

Dr. Birnie laughed. He didn't notice the pained tone in 
which the child made her confession. 

' Cross and swears, eh, little one ? That's a good sign, not a 
bad one. People are always cross when they're getting well.' 

' Oh, then I don't mind his being cross ; but, Dr. Birnie, will 
you be very kind, and do me a favour ?' 

She looked up at the doctor timidly, as though she was taking 
a great liberty. 

' A favour ? Eh, what is it ? Has your doll got the measles, 
or does Lion want a cough mixture ?' 

The child laughed for a moment, tickled by the notion ; but 
her face resumed its serious expression again directly. 

' Xo, it isn't that, Dr. Birnie ; but I want you to ask grand- 
father not to swear at me. It hurts me here.' 

She put her hand on her heart, and spoke with such earnest 

2—2 



20 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

emphasis, that the doctor stopped on the threshold of the house, 
which they had just reached, and looked earnestly in her face. 

' Poor little thing !' he said, laying his hand kindly on her 
smoothly plaited hair, ' what a shame it is !' Then, without 
answering Gertie Heckett's petition, he ran rapidly up the stairs, 
the child following him. 

Mr. Josh Heckett, the' invalid, was in bed when the doctor 
entered ; that is, he was lying partially dressed, with a dirty 
counterpane flung over him and the pillows propped up under 
his head. The said head was covered with surgical bandages, 
and a considerable portion of the face below was discoloured 
and bruised. That Mr. Heckett was in pain was evident, for 
every time he moved— and he was very restless — he drew liber- 
ally from that well of Saxon, impure and defiled, which is so 
largely patronized by the free-born Englishman who wishes to 
add force to his conversation. 

He was a strange-looking invalid, with his burly limbs and 
giant strength lying prostrate, like a lightning-stricken oak, and 
he was surrounded by strange companions. Round the walls, 
wherever a nail could be driven, hung cages full of all sorts and 
conditions of birds, from the parrot to the lark. Lying about 
on the floor, in various attitudes of repose, were two toy terriers, 
a fox-hound, and a fierce and exceptionally ugly bull-dog. A 
pretty King Charles spaniel, with a litter of puppies, occupied 
an empty box in one of the corners, and scattered about the room 
in picturesque confusion were rabbits in hutches, squirrels in 
revolving cages, guinea-pigs, and white mice, and a few other 
animals, who bad rolled themselves up so completely into a ball 
for their noonday siesta, that it was quite impossible to say what 
they were until they condescended to disentangle their heads 
from their tails. 

The central figure of the group, however, was a splendid 
mastiff dog. He lay at the foot of Heckett's bed, a perfect 
picture of unstudied grace. His leonine head was slightly on 
one side, as though listening for a footstep, and his paws were 
crossed in front of him. His sleek fawn coat shone like velvet, 
and spoke of some one's constant care and attention. There was 
something of contempt for the other inhabitants of the room in 
the dog's look at times. When the other dogs barked, he would 
glare towards them with a lazy, sneering expression, as much as 
to say, ' Poor idiots ! what are you frightened about ?' But sud- 
denly he became agitated himself, and sprang from the floor. 
He uttered a deep growl, and crouched in an attitude of attack. 
There was a footstep on the stairs. The door opened, and Dr. 
Birnie walked in. 

At sight of him the dog dropped his tail, and, growlino-, 
slunk back into the corner of the room, with his eyes steadily 
fixed on the doctor, half in dislike, half in fear. 

' Why don't you teach that brute not to growl at me, Heckett ?' 



A'O. is, LITTLE QUEER STREET 21 

said Dr. Birnie, seizing a rabbit-hutch by the bedside, and sitting 
on it, much to the terror of the occupant. 

' It's his natur,' the man answered. 'He don't like you ; he's 
a very good judge, is Lion — he knows my pals in a minute.' 

' I suppose you mean he kuows your friends from your 
enemies ?' 

1 Yes.' 

' Then he ought not to growl at me. I'm one of your friends.' 

1 You're friendly as long as it suits yer purpose, that's all.' 

'AH right, Heckett ; have it your own way. How's the head ?' 

' Orf ul ; can't sleep with it.' 

' Let's look at it again.' 

With a hand as gentle as a woman's, Birnie removed the 
bandages, and examined the wounded man. 

After carefully looking at a rapidly healing wound, he put 
back the strappings and the linen, and felt the patient's pulse. 

' All right, Heckett, you're going on well. You'll be able to 
get out in a week. By Jove ! I thought it was all up with you 
that night you sent for me in a hurry. I didn't expect you'd 
live till the morning.' 

' But I did, ye see ; and I mean to live a good bit longer yet. 
Josh Heckett isn't going to snuff it just for a crack on the 
head.' 

' Xo, you weren't born to die that way, Josh.' 

The invalid glanced up at the doctor's face with a look of such 
intense rage that it convulsed his swollen features, and made 
him cry out with pain. 

'Mind what you say, governor,' he hissed, clinching his fist 
under the counterpane. ' If I come to a bad end there's others 
as '11 have to be in the same boat with me.' 

The doctor laughed, and turned the conversation. 

' How does Gertie manage ?' 

' Oh, all right. She's a kind wench ; I don't know what I 
should do without her. She's a fust-class nuss, and she attends 
the animiles, and she can talk to the customers better nor I 
can.' 

' Well, then, why do you swear at her ?' 

The man looked at him a moment as if he had not heard 
aright. 

' Swear at her ! Why, you'll ask me why I looks at her next. 
There ain't nothin' in swearing at anybody, is there ? 'Tain' b 
hitting of 'em, is it ?' 

Mr. Josh Heckett was lost in amazement. The doctor objected 
to his swearing at Gertie. Why, he swore at everything — at the 
dogs, at the guinea-pigs, at the chairs and tables, at himself — ■ 
why should he make an exception of Gertie ? 

' Well, I'm blowed !' he added, when he had fully realized the 
enormity of the objection. ' This here's a fiee country, and a 
cove ain't to swear at his own gal. Oh, crikey ! 



22 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Well, don't do it, Josh ; that's all I ask you. The girl's a 
good little lass, and she doesn't like it.' 

Josh Heckett pulled himself up in bed. 

' Look here, Oliver Birnie, Hessquire, HemD., you get my 
head well, that's your business. Me and my gal's got on pretty 
well without your assistance up to now, and we're wery much 
obliged, but " declined with thanks," as they sez in the noose- 
papers. Oliver Birnie, Hessquire, HemD., drop it.' 

' You're facetious to-day, Josh. Never mind ; you're always 
glad enough to send for me when you're in a mess.' 

' Yes, and you was very glad of my services once.' 

The doctor's brow darkened as he muttered : 

' That was a bad time for a good many of us— a time we should 
like to forget.' 

' I dessay,' growled Heckett ; ' and as you'd like other people 
to forget too You've got on in the world, and rolls your eyes 
hup, and does the wirtuous now. I can't afford to.' 

' You've had no end of money,' said the doctor. ' Heaven only 
knows what you do with it. Why do you keep on this wretched 
den, and these wretched animals ? You could afford to retire 
and live decently and in comfort.' 

; No, I couldn't. I've spent all the money I ever made. You 
don't believe it, bnt I have. Besides, I must keep on this place. 
If I hadn't a crib like this, how could I live ? It isn't so re- 
spectable as the old crib you and Egerton and Marston, and all 
the lot of you, was glad enough to come to once, perhaps, but it 
soots me quite as well.' 

The man winked at the doctor as well as his bruised face 
would let him. The doctor thrust his hands in his pockets, and 
walked up and down the room, treading on the toy terrier's tail, 
and narrowly escaping a grab from the bull-dog in consequence. 

' Heckett, do you ever think what might have happened if 
Marston had turned traitor ?' 

The invalid went pale on the only side of his face that could 
change colour. 

' Don't talk like that,' he growled. ' I ain't well, and it worrits 
me. Bah ! he's died in furrin parts, or gone too stone broke 
ever to get 'ome agin. I ain't always sure as may be it wasn't 
him as done it. What did he bolt to America for directly after- 
wards ? Only he hadn't no motive, and the other had, and I 
alius looks at motives. Besides, anyway, it 'ud be wus for you, 
now Egerton's drownded, than it would for me. You're better 
off now than you wos then, and he might want to go snacks, 
perhaps. A poor cove like me wouldn't be high enough game for 
him to fly at.' 

Birnie glanced at the old dog-fancier, as he lay with his grey 
hair straggling over his bandaged head. 

/You're very poor, aren't you, Heckett!' he said present] 5' 
with a peculiar intonation in his voice. ' 



NO. IS, LITTLE QUEER STREET, 33 

' Yc 5 *, I am. Curse you ! what do you look like that at mo 
for ? Perhaps you think I ain't poor ? Perhaps you thinks as 
I'm Baron Rotschild, a-livin' in this here drum for the bene- 
fit o' my 'elth ? Perhaps you thinks as I lends money to the 
Emperor o' Rooshia at five per cent., and only goes out after 
dark, for fear the Guverment should call in the day-time for a 
loan, and have to go away without it ?' The old man rose in 
the bed, his body quivering with rage. 

'Xonsense, Heckett!' said the doctor, trying to quiet him. 
' What a queer old fellow you are ! Of course you're poor. Why, 
you wouldn't worry me for money as you do if you weren't.' 

' Xo, of course, I shouldn't.' 

' There, there,' continued the doctor, arranging his pillows and 
smoothing the bandage that Heckett had moved in his excite- 
ment ; ' lie still and get well ; that's what you've got to do. I'll 
come and see you again in a day or two.' 

The doctor nodded to his patient, tumbled over the bulldog, 
and made a bolt for the door. Outside Gertie was waiting for 
him. 

' Your grandfather's better, my child,' he said. ' He'll be 
about in a week again. Good-bye.' 

Dr. Birnie patted her face and went out of the door. He 
walked rapidly up Little Queer Street and through the Dials, 
making his way into New Oxford Street. Then he turned up 
past the Museum, and into Russell Square. Leaving the square, 
and turning into one of the streets branching off from it, he 
became aware of something shiny on a doorstep that seemed to 
shine right at him. 

He looked up. 

He nodded pleasantly, for he had recognised the highly polished 
face of Mr. Duck, the clerk of his legal advisers, 

' Fine morning, Mr. Duck !' 

' Doctor,' gasped the shiny one, running after him, and grab- 
bing him by the coat-tails, for Birnie had walked on rapidly, 
' Doctor, one moment. I wish you'd come in and see Mrs. 
Turvey. She's quite queer in her head. I can't make her out.' 

' What. Mr. Egerton's housekeeper T 

1 Yes, doctor. She's quite light-headed. Swears she's seen 
his ghost. Just come in and see her, sir, if you will. It's the 
rummest case I ever heard of.' 

The doctor walked back with Mr. Jabez. 

' It's shock to the system,' he said ; ' that's all. When did she 
hear the news of his death ?' 

' Last night, sir,' answered Mr. Duck. ' I told her, sir. 
Thought it was best. Old and faithful servant, sir— very much 
attached. He's left her five hundred pounds in his will— as of 
course you know, sir, being executor.' 

' Of course,' muttered the doctor, and then he silently followed 
his guide into Gurth Egerton's house. 



24 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

As he passed through the hall, and saw the late owner's pic- 
ture hanging there, his memory went back to a time when he, 
Oliver Birnie, and this very Gurth Egerton were companions in 
adversity, and were not quite sure where their next pound was 
coming from. 

Now he was a rising practitioner, with a balance at his banker's, 
and Gurth — well, Gurth had been drowned in the Bon Espoir, 
and had left his housekeeper five hundred pounds 



CHAPTER V. 

MISS DUCK HAS A WORD TO SAY 

Mk. Duck was at breakfast one morning in his eight-roomed 
house at Dalston, and his revered sister, Miss Georgina, was 
pouring out the first cup of tea in the pot for him, and selecting 
the worst piece of bacon and the most suspicious-looking egg 
from the dish before her. Having jerked these delicacies on to 
his plate, and thus ensured the survival of the fittest, she pro- 
ceeded to help herself to the remainder. 

' Jabez, said Miss Georgina suddenly, ' some day you will die !' 

'Lor', Georgie, don't !' exclaimed Jabez, bolting a particularly 
cindery piece of bacon, and thereby nearly bringing his sister's 
prophecy off there and then. 

When he had coughed and choked and increased in shinine?s 
from ten to thirty candle power, he gradually recovered, and, 
polishing his perspiring face with a large red handkerchief, pro- 
ceeded to expostulate with Georgina on the impropriety of talk- 
ing of death to a man with his mouth full. 

'You are a weak-minded idiot, Jabez!' answered the lady. 
' All men are. Do you imagine that you won't die ?' 

' No, my dear ; of course not. Only, why remind me of an 
unpleasant fact just when I'm having my breakfast ?' 

' Because it is only at breakfast I see you, and I think you 
ought to make your will while you are in a sound state of mind. 
You've changed lately, brother Jabez— changed very much for 
the worse. You don't come home to tea, and you have ceased 
to take me into your confidence.' 

'Nonsense, my dear !' stammered Mr. Duck, going very red. 
' A little business has detained me the last night or two, I con- 
fess, but ' 

' Jabez Duck, you're deceiving me. You're making a fool of 
yourself.' 

' Georgina — really, upon my word ' 

' Hold your tongue. I've looked after you and managed your 
house for more than twenty years, and I'm not going to desert 
you now. I will protect you against designing minxes with the 
last drop of my blood.' 



MISS DUCK HAS A WORD TO SAY. 25 

Miss Duck waved her teaspoon in the air at an imaginary 
minx, and brought it down on her cup with a clang, as though 
she were striking her shield with a sword, and inviting the foes 
of Jabez Duck to come on. 

Jabez grew very uncomfortable, and fidgeted about on his 
chair. The eagle eye of G-eorgina was reading his soul. He 
knew it was. He felt that the name of Susan Turvey was 
written on his guilty brow, and that G-eorgina was spelling it 
out. 

He plucked up a little determination, and inquired, in a 
quavering voice, if his sister would kindly drop conundrums and 
come to the point. 

Yes, she would come to the point. There was an old frump 
of a housekeeper at Mr. Egerton's — that was the point. 

' Oh, indeed !' said Jabez. 'And pray who has been telling 
you this fine cock-and-bull story ?' 

' You yourself,' answered Miss G-eorgina triumphantly. 

Herewith she put her hand into htr pocket, and drew forth a 
crumpled piece of paper, which she handed to him. 

' I found this in your trousers pocket.' 

Jabez rose in wrath. The cloud on his brow quite obscured 
the skine for a moment. 

' Georgina, you've no business at my trousers pockets ! It's — 
dash it — it's embezzlement !' 

Miss Duck laughed, an irritating, satirical little laugh, and, 
seizing the piece of paper which her brother held in his hand, 
she spread it out and read it aloud. 

'Dear Mrs. Turvey — may I say Susan ?— Dr. Birnie tells 
me, my own, you are progressing favourably, and may ste 
visitors in a week's time. I count the hours. As the poet 
says :— 

' " Thou wert all the world to me, love, 
For which my soul did pine ; 
A green isle in the sea, love, 
To be your valentine." 

Oh, Susan, when reason returns, and health mantles your cheek 
once more, may I hope that you will grant the prayer of your 
ever-devoted Jabez ?' 

' Give it to me !' shrieked Mr. Duck, making a violent effort 
to seize his crumpled billet-doux. 

' Certainly,' said Miss Georgina, tossing it contemptously 
across the table to her brother, who tore it into fragments, and 
jumped upon it. 

'How dare you, Georgina?' he exclaimed — 'how dare you 
interf ere with my business ? It's a crime to steal a letter. You 
could be prosecuted by the Postmaster-General.' 



26 ROGUES AND VAGABOADS. 

'Postmaster fiddlestick! I hope you didn't send any sane 
woman such twaddle as that, Jabez.' 

'No, I didn't ; I thought better of it,' stammered Mr. Duck. 
' That's nothing. It wasn't a copy of a letter at all. It was an 
exercise of the imagination, that's all.' 

' Well, don't leave your exercises in your pockets, Jabez.' 

' I'll empty my pockets, Georgina — rely on that. Never do 
you have another coat or waistcoat of mine to brush till it's 
been searched as if it were a shoplifter brought into the police 
station. Give me my hat and coat. I'm going. Good morning, 
Georgina.' 

Mr. Jabez burst out of the room in a towering passion. He 
brushed his hat the wrong way and quite took the shine off it ; 
and when he jumped up on the box seat of his regular omnibus, 
there was so little shine in his face that the driver looked round 
to see if there was any fog about. 

Mr. Duck was excessively annoyed that his sister had found 
this copy of his first love-letter in his pocket. He had intended 
her to know nothing about the matter till it was all arranged. 
In fact he wasn't quite sure that he should let her know any- 
thing about it till the ceremony was over, and he couldn't be 
bullied out of his resolve. He went in mortal terror of Georgina. 
She had a sharp tongue and a sharp eye, and she persisted in 
looking upon him as a weak-minded man, who could only prosper 
with her assistance. 

When he had called at Mr. Egerton's house on the morning 
after the tea party, he had only seen Topsey, and Topsey had 
told him her aunt was very ill and couldn't see anybody, because 
she'd seen a ghost. She, Topsey, had seen the ghost too, and 
she described it. Mr. Duck's horror was intense when he found 
the apparition the child described was the exact counterpart of 
the firm's drowned client. It was coming away from the house 
that he met Dr. Birnie, and sent him in to see what was the 
matter with the housekeeper. From the doctor he learned the 
particulars of the case. Mrs. Turvey declared she had seen the 
ghost of her master, and the child corroborated her. 

It couldn't be Gurth Egerton in flesh and blood, because he 
would have come in and spoken to them. He would have said, 
' Here I am,' or made some observation. 

But this ghost said nothing, and when Topsey, who had seized 
her aunt, and hidden her face, looked up, the door was shut and 
the ghost was gone. 

Mrs. Turvey came to herself to find Topsey sobbing beside 
her and white with terror. They got downstairs the best way 
they could, and locked themselves in, and had the gas on full 
all night. 

The next morning Mrs. Turvey was very ill, and Dr. Birnie 
had attended her ever since. 

Jabez, who could keep very little to himself, had told this 



MISS DUCK HAS A WORD TO SA Y. 27 

ghost story, with sundry reservations, to his sister, and she, 
finding the draft of a tender declaration in the pocket of a pair 
of trousers he had left out to be brushed, immediately put two 
and two together, like the clever woman that she was, and deter- 
mined to tackle her brother at once. 

Miss Georgina Duck was a strong -minded, hard -featured 
damsel, who had passed sweet seventeen some thirty years ago. 
She was mistress of a house without being plagued with a hus- 
band. She managed her brother's home, and her word was law. 
She ruled him, and she ruled the lodgers in the first floor, and 
she ruled the charwoman who came in to help occasionally, and 
she ruled the butcher and the baker and the milkman, and every- 
body in the neighbourhood who came within the circle of her 
magic influence. 

She even ruled the cats. No cats came into her garden, or if 
by chance they did cross it en route for the gardens beyond, it 
was always in fear and trembling. Before the eye of Georgina 
Duck the most daring Tom would quail, and it was wonderful 
how quickly the whole of the neighbouring feline colony learned 
to shun a conflict with Miss Duck. 

Now this was hardly the woman quietly to resign her sceptre 
after a long despotic reign just because her elderly idiot of a 
brother had taken a fancy to an old woman's legacy. 

' A pretty thing, indeed,' said Miss Duck to her bosom friend, 
Miss Jackson, from over the road, ' for him to go making a fool 
of himself at his age ! The house wouldn't hold her and me 
long. I suppose I should be expected to turn out. Not me !' 

The idea of Miss Duck turning out so shocked Miss Jackson 
that she fell upon her friend's neck and wept. 

Miss Jackson always wept. Tears with her supplied the place 
of speech. 

' Don't be a fool, 'Lizer,' said Miss Duck, harshly. ' There's 
nothing to cry about. He hasn't done it yet. And he isn't goiuj 
to.' 1 

If Mr. Duck had been present he would have accepted his fate 
there and then, and resigned Mrs. Turvey without a struggle. 
Fortunately, he still believed that he could evade the watchful 
guardianship of Georgina, and did not allow his little plans to 
be disconcerted. 

CHAPTER VI. 

AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE. 

At the lodge-gates of an old-fashioned country mansion, which 
stands in a well-wooded park shut in among the Surrey hills, a 
young girl was waiting one winter night. Every now and then 
she would turn and glance towards the house, as though she 
expected some one to come from it. 



28 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Twice she fancied she heard a footstep and stepped oat into 
the shadow of the roadway, and twice she found her fancy had 
deceived her. 

But the third time it was no fancy. There was a well-known 
step upon the broad gravel path, and in the dim light she could 
see the figure of a man coming rapidly towards her. She gave a 
nervous glance towards the lodge- window, then darted out into 
the roadway, and, walking in the shadow of the hedge that 
skirted the park, reached a spot where the bend of the road 
would hide her from the view of any one looking out of the 
lodge-gates. 

The man, walking rapidly, soon caught her up. 

She ran to him, and, looking up into his face, questioned him 
eagerly with her eyes. 

He shook his head sorrowfully. 

' Failure, Bess,' he said. ' I must leave this place to-night.' 

The girl gave a little cry, and, taking the man's arm, clung 
closely to him. 

' Yes, Bess ; the old man's as hard as iron. I flung myself on 
his mercy. I told him all. He heard what I had to say, and 
then turned me out like a dog. Swore T wanted to ruin him. 
The old miser !' 

' Hush, George — he is your father.' 

' He was, you mean. We've parted for ever. He says I'm no 
son of his. So be it. He's no father of mine. A paltry 
thousand would have put me straight.' 

' Can nothing be done, George ?' 

' Nothing, my girl. I'm what they call dead broke. I must 
get up to town, and trust to luck. I'm young and strong, and 
if I can't pay my debts, at any rate I can earn bread-and- 
cheese.' 

The girl let him run on, but his flippant manner distressed her. 
You could see that in her face. The dark eyes were filled with 
tears, and the red lips trembled. She was a village beauty — a 
handsome brunette — this lodge-keeper's daughter, and many a 
village swain had laid his heart at her feet, but she had laughed 
their love away, and kept her heart for one who was far above 
her. The man by her side was her master's son, young George 
Heritage, heir to the house and lands — ' the young squire ' they 
called him in the village, but Bess only called him ' George.' 

Bess Marks was no ordinary rustic beauty, or I question very 
much if she would have won George Heritage's heart. She was 
a strong-minded, pure-hearted, clever girl — a girl who exercised 
a strange fascination over the young squire. 

Their sweethearting was a profound secret from every one. 
There was enough romance in it to redeem it from vulgarity, 
and it was a perfectly serious affair. 

No thought of harm had ever entered the young man's breast. 
He had accepted the fact that he had fallen in love with a lodge- 



AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE. 29 

keeper's daughter ns he accepted the fact that he had got heavily 
into debt, lie couldn't help it. That was his answer to him- 
self when he and his conscience had a quiet quarter of an hour 
together. 

Some day he supposed he would have to pay his debts ; some 
day he supposed he would marry Bess. ' Some day ' was a 
movable feast, and so George didn't worry himself about it. 

But to-night a crisis had come. To-night he had to begin a 
new life. He was no longer Squire Heritage's heir. 

George had not exaggerated the nature of his interview with 
his father. The old squire was the last man in the world who 
should have been George's father. 

He was as careful of money as his son was prodigal. His 
notions of what a young man of three-and-twenty ought to be 
were founded upon what he himself had been at that age — a 
steady young fellow, contented to ride about his father's estate, 
talk with the old men, and spend his days about the land and 
his evenings in the library. He was matter of fact, stern, and 
uncompromising. He came of Puritan stock, and he had notions 
of morality which were scandalized by the fashionable follies of 
to-day. 

He was bitterly disappointed in his son, in whom he had 
hoped to find a companion. When Mrs. Heritage died the lad 
was fifteen and at school, and he saw but little of his father. In 
due course he went to Oxford, and there he developed his ' fast ' 
tendencies. He got into a fast set, went the pace, and ran 
heavily into debt. 

The squire had him home, read him a lesson, paid his debts, 
and told him he need not go back to Oxford again ; that what 
he was learning there wasn't likely to do him any good. 

The old hall was dull for the lad. About a fortnight he grew 
tired of dining with his father and going to bed at ten. He 
looked out for something to amuse him, and two things happened 
which influenced the whole after-course of his life. He fell in 
love with the lodge-keeper's daughter, handsome Bess Marks, 
and he took to going up to London and joined a club. 

Gradually the club claimed most of his attention, and he broke 
out into another gambling fit. 

He took to attending race meetings and to card-playing, and 
once again came what in sporting language is called a ' cropper.' 
He got his name on stamped paper which had an awkward habit 
of coming due, and let things go on in his easy, happy-go-lucky 
way, till he found himself in such a muddle that he was bound 
to appeal to his father. 

A second time the squire drew a cheque and paid his son's 
creditors. But from that moment there was an estrangement. 
George resented the severity of the lecture which accompanied 
the cheque, and took little pains to conceal his feelings. 



30 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

The squire was stately and cold. His son avoided his society, 
and it was not forced upon him. 

But when, after the lapse of a few months, a fresh burden of 
debt came upon the scapegrace, and the young man went half- 
defiantly to his father for assistance, the storm burst. 

The old squire was honestly indignant, and he spoke his mind. 

The terrified servants passing to and fro heard high words 
that evening in the little library, and the voices of father and 
son quivered with passion. 

The young man was a favourite with all the people about the 
place, and many were the hopes expressed that the squire 
wouldn't be too hard on Master George, as was a bit wild, 
perhaps, as was but natural, but he'd settle down when he'd 
sown his wild oats, bless him, and be a squire as 'ud do the old 
hall some credit yet. 

The good souls who spoke up for the young scapegrace didn't 
know what a plentiful crop of oats Master George had sown, 
neither had they had to draw the cheques to pay for this rather 
unprofitable agricultural produce. 

George and his father quarrelled fiercely this time. The 
squire swore that not one penny more should George have. He 
was a reprobate and a vagabond. He was wasting his substance 
in riotous living and bringing discredit on an honoured name. 

The young man in turn reproached his father. He had made 
the home dull and repellent. It was like a monastery more than 
a gentleman's house. Because he was no longer young himself 
and had had his pleasure and seen life, he had no sympathy with 
young men. George wasn't going to turn goody-goody and take 
to psalm-singing and dryasdust books for anybody. If his father 
wouldn't give him any more money, he'd do without it. He 
didn't want money that was grudged him. Let the squire keep 
his money, if he was so fond of it. 

Taunt succeeded taunt, reproach reproach, and so the wordy 
warfare was worked up to its climax. 

It ended by the squire denouncing his son as an unprincipled 
rascal, and swearing that he would disinherit him. 

Then George spoke some bitter words and marched out of his 
father's presence, vowing that he should see his face no more. 

' I'm young and strong, and I'll be independent of you,' he 
said. ' You say I'm no son of yours — so be it. From this 
moment I renounce my name. I have no father — you have no 
son. Leave your money to the missionaries, or do what th3 
deuce you like with it. You can't take it to heaven with you 
when you die.' 

With these words the young man strode out of his father's 
presence, bade the servants in a loud voice pack up his things 
and send them up to Waterloo Station the next day, as he was 
going on a journey ; and then he walked hastily down the 
avenue, his small travelling-bag in his hand, and went to the 



AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE. 31 

spot where Bess was anxiously awaiting the result of the inter- 
view. 

' Oh, George, what will you do ?' moaned the girl. 
'Do, my darling V answered the young man, looking at her 
lovingly, and then stooping down and kissing her. 'I'll tell you 
what 111 do. I'll marry you, and we'll settle down into a hard- 
working young couple, and perhaps, some day, if we're good, we 
shall have a public-house.' 

Bess was hot and cold, and the rich blood faded from her olive 
cheeks only to rush back again and suffuse them with a burning 
crimson, for George's sudden proposition had turned her first 
giddy and then faint ; but, confused and troubled as she was, 
she could not help laughing at the idea of George keeping a 
public-house. 

In spite of his gay manner, there is no doubt he was in earnest 
in his offer to Bess. 

' You'll keep me steady,' he went on, in reply to her remon- 
strances. ' I'm a ship without a rudder now, and I might drift 
on to the rocks. You'll keep me straight for port. I know you 
will, little woman.' 

' But, George, think of your friends.' 

' I have no friends. From this day I'm George Smith, and 
you shall be Mrs. Smith. I'll get something to do in the City, 
and earn my dinner before I eat it. It '11 be quite a romance." 
George rubbed his hands. He was already in imagination 
bringing home his golden salary on Saturday, and flinging it 
into Bess's lap. 

Many idle words he said that evening, and many serious ones, 
but the upshot of it all was that he went off to town to look 
for quiet furnished apartments in which they could start house- 
keeping, and to buy a licence to marry Bess Marks. 

And Bess went back to the lodge, half broken-hearted and half 
mad with delight, to cry on her father's neck and keep the big 
secret that her lips were dying to utter. 

And all supper-time she sat and looked at him and wondered 
what he would do when she was gone, and what he would think 
of her. 

George had told her that her father must not know they were 
married — ' Not for a little while, darling,' he said. 

He thought if the lodgekeeper knew it, the faithful old ser- 
vant would not be able to keep the news long from his master. 

George Heritage had made up his mind to marry Bess Marks, 
but he couldn't quite screw his courage up to the point of having 
his mesalliance proclaimed. 

That he put off to ' some day.' 

On the following morning, while Bess was sitting by the open 
window thinking of her sweetheart and talking to her father, 
answering at random, and dropping furtive little tears on to her 
needlework, George was roaming about London looking for fur- 



32 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

nished apartments suitable for a young couple with limited 
means. 

After trying a few dozen houses where cards were exhibited 
in the windows, and finding everything that he did not want, 
such as musical societies, religious families, new babies on each 
floor, and high rents and low ceilings, he came "to a little house in 
a street at Dalston, in the front window of which hung a card, 
and on the card was written ' First floor to let furnished. 
Apply within.' 

George applied, and the rooms just suited him. Sixteen 
shillings a week was not dear, certainly, for a bedroom and sit- 
ting-room ; and though the landlady seemed a little starchy and 
inclined to be acidulated, she was very clean and respectable- 
looking. 

That evening when Mr. Jabez Duck returned from the City, 
Miss Georgina informed him that she'd let the first floor — no 
references, but rent a week in advance— to a Mr. and Mrs. 
George Smith, a newly married couple. 

; What are they like ?' 

' I don't know,' answered Georgina, tartly ; ' I've only seen the 
gentleman at present, and ho is a gentleman.' 

' Well, my dear, I didn't expect he was a lady ;' with which 
remark Mr. Jabez sat down and had his tea, utterly oblivious of 
the terrible contempt which spread itself over the features of 
his sister, who * despised small jokes of any kind, and her 
brother's small jokes most of all. 



CHAPTER VII. 

A CHAT OVER OLD TIMES. 

There is a quiet little road in St. John's Wood which seems 
specially to have been designed for ladies and gentlemen of a 
retiring disposition, who wish for a peaceful arcadia at a con- 
venient distance from trams, omnibuses, and railways. You 
turn out of the main thoroughfare to find yourself suddenly 
shut in between a double row of small villas, all well set back 
in high-walled gardens, and further protected, from the gaze of 
the curious by luxuriant foliage. 

The Arcadian inhabitants of this out-of-the-world by-way — a 
by-way so narrow that a hansom cab can scarcely be driven 
down it without getting on to the kerb — seem to be slightly 
suspicious of visitors. The villas are constructed on a system 
of defence not unpopular during the middle ages. There is no 
room for a drawbridge or a moat, but this deficiency is supplied 
by a very high and solid garden gate, which effectually bars the 
progress of the attacking party — and not only his progress but 
his view. 



A CHAT OVER OLD TIMES. 33 

Over the tops of the trees in the front garden, if you stand 
well back on the opposite side, you may catch sight of the tops 
of the villa chimney-pots, but of the villas themselves you can 
see nothing. 

The garden gate affords you no better standpoint. It is a 
solid piece of woodwork, grim and forbidding as a prison door. 

If you knock and ring with the idea that the gate will be 
opened, and you will thus get a glimpse within, you are wofully 
mistaken. 

Your summons may be answered or not, as the case may be. 
If it is, a small wooden flap at the back of an iron grill is let 
down, and a face appears blocking up the aperture. The eyes 
of this face regard you carefully, and if these eyes fail to 
recognise you the lips move and request to know your business. 
If your explanation is satisfactory, you may be admitted ; if it is 
not, up goes the wooden flap again with a bang, and silence 
reigns around. 

At the gate of one of these curious and secluded little villas, 
which by the inscription on the door-posts we learn is called 
' The Lodge,' and by the brass plate on the door we find is in- 
habited by Dr. Oliver Birnie, there stands a gentleman whom 
we have seen before. 

He is a tall, good-looking fellow, very shabby about the 
clothes, and not particularly tidy about the hair and beard. 

The face which blocks up the little peephole of The Lodge is 
a female face of the domestic servant order, and it evidently 
regards the visitor with some suspicion. There has been a pre- 
liminary verbal passage of arms, and the female face is hot and 
angry-looking . 

' If you can't tell me your name, I shan't go and disturb 
master,' say the lips. 

' You go and tell your master what I say,' answers the shabby 
gentleman — ' that an old friend from abroad wishes to sen 
him.' 

The lips move again — this time in a curled-up and scornful 
manner. 

'People as is ashamed o' their names ain't no friends o' 
master's, I'm sure.' 

' That's more than you know, you impertinent hussy ! Take 
my message.' 

' Shan't !' 

With that the flap goes to with a bang. 

The shabby gentleman is not in the least abashed. He takes 
the bell-handle calmly and proceeds to tug at it. 

He continues tugging till the female face, hotter and angrier 
than ever, once more appears at the peephole. 

' If you don't go away I shall send for the perlicc.' 

' Will you take my message ?' 

' No master ain't at home.' 



34 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Then why the devil didn't yon say so before ?' 
* Cus I didn't choose. P'raps you'd like to know where he is. 
and where he was horned, Mr. Imperence ; and how many times 
he's been waksinated, and what he had for dinner o' Sunday. 
Come, what is it ? 'Ave you called to see the meter and help 
yourself to the hovercoats ; or d'ye want to be shown in and see 
which is the heasiest way through the back window on some 
f utur' ercashun ?' 

The domestic was fully roused now, and she let the shabby 
gentleman have it. She knew a thing or two ; and she wasn't 
going to be made a fool of, like the silly girls master read to her 
about in the newspapers. 

Her particular instructions were never, under any circum- 
stances, to admit a visitor when her master was out, and she 
meant to obey them. Besides, what could a shabby fellow like 
this want but what he'd no right to ? 

The shabby gentleman wasn't angry in the least. He accepted 
the attack with a smiie. 

' Bravo, Jemima ! or whatever your name is,' he said. ' You 
are a shrewd girl, and deserve encouragement. I'll report to the 
doctor, when I see him, what an admirable watch-dog you 
make.' 

' Dog yourself ! and my name ain't Jemima ; and if it was, I 
shouldn't be ashamed on it, like you are o' yourn. Go away. 
There ain't nothing to be got here.' 

Bang went the flap, and the shabby gentleman was still on 
the wrong side of the door. 

He was about to stroll away when a carriage came dashing 
down the narrow roadway, and was pulled up in front of The 
Lodge. Dr. Birnie jumped out, the carriage drove off, and then 
the shabby gentleman, coming close up to the doctor as he was 
putting his latchkey into the garden gate, touched him gently 
en the arm. 

The doctor turned. 

For a moment he hesitated and turned slightly pale, then he 
looked closely into the shabby gentleman's face and gasped out : 

' Good God, Marston ! I thought you were dead.' 

Edward Marston smiled. 

' Not yet, Birnie. I've been very near it, though, once or 
twice.' 

'How strangely things happen,' thought Birnie to himself. 
'I've been to Heckett's and Egerton's to-day, and now here's Mar- 
ston dropped from the skies, as if to complete the circle.' 

The doctor glanced at his visitor's costume, and then at his face 
again. 

' Hard up, I suppose ?' he said uneasily. 

'Devilish hard up, old man. So hard up that I have called for 
that bob you owe me for directing you to Little Queer Street 
the other night.' 



A CHAT OVER OLD TIMES. 35 

The doctor started. 

'Good gracious, man ! you don't mean to say that was you ?' 

' It was. Here's the card you gave me. I've given you three 
days' credit as it is.' Marston drew the card from his pocket and 
gave it to Birnio. ' That's how I knew where to find you. 
Deuced funny how things come about, isn't it ?' 

Marston laughed. It wasn't a nice laugh, and the doctor didn't 
respond to it. 

He looked very uncomfortable, and hesitated for a moment ; 
then, assuming an air of nonchalance, he said, with an affectation 
of cheeriness : 

' Well, old fellow, I'm glad to see you. Will you come in and 
have a chat ?' 

' Just what I should like,' answered Marston ; ' especially if 
there's anything to eat with the chat.' 

' Certainly, my dear boy. Come along.' 

The doctor pushed his gate open and walked in, followed by 
Marston. As they entered the house the servant came running 
to the doctor to tell him of the pertinacious shabby gentleman's 
visit. The look of disgust on her face when she saw the shabby 
gentleman in the hall was intense. She tossed her head, mut- 
tered, ' Well, I'm sure !' and rushed downstairs to the kitchen to 
protect the spoons and forks. 

' And so you've come back again, Ned ?' said Dr. Birnie, as, a 
few minutes later, he sat in his library with the shabby gentle- 
man. 

' Yes, I have. But pleasure before business, please.' 

Mr. Marston was enjoying some cold meat and pickles, which 
the servant had been ordered to bring him up, much to her 
disgust. 

When he had finished he leaned back in the chair and fetched 
a deep breath. 

' By Jove, Birnie,' he said, ' that's the first good meal I've 
made for a month !' 

' Can I order a little more for you ?' 

' Xo, my boy ; I won't spoil my dinner.' 

Mr. Marston had evidently made up his mind that he was not 
going short of good meals again in a hurry. 

Birnie eyed him nervously, and waited for him to grow com- 
municative. He wasn't comfortable. He was playing a game 
without knowing his opponent's cards, and that was a style of 
play which had never suited Oliver Birnie. 

He had not long to wait. 

' Do you know, it's ten years since I left England,' said 
Marston presently. ' By Jove ! there must have been some 
changes in our little party siuce then.' 

' Indeed there have.' 

'I come back and I find you a doctor, with a carriage and pair, 

3—2 



36 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

a nice quiet villa, and a thundering cheeky slavy ; I heard abroad 
that Gurth had got a windfall and was a regular tiptop swell 
now, and I'll bet old Heckett hasn't been behindhand in making 
hay. I'm the only one of the lot that's down on my luck. 
I've been the scapegoat— that's what I've been — and I assure 
you, my dear boy, I've grown tired of the character. I've come 
back to change places with one of you, and I'm not particular 
which.' 

Birnie shot a keen, searching glance at his visitor. 

' Look here, Ned, before we go any further, suppose we clear 
the ground a little. I suppose, from your being here and walk- 
ing about openly, it's quite safe for you to have come back ?' 

' Quite.' 

' Well, then, why did you go away so suddenly ?' 

' Not for what you think, Nolly, my boy. That's where you've 
all been wrong, I guess. When that little affair was on and I 
bolted suddenly, you put two and two together and fancied I'd 
broken the law. Now the boot was on the other trotter. The 
law broke me.' 

' How V 

' You know that my father had gone to America to prosecute 
the big lawsuit which was to make us all millionaires, and put 
me straight for ever ?' 

'Yes.' 

' Well, he lost the day, and I went out at once to him.' 

' Good heavens, Marston ! Don't say that your mysterious 
departure was due to filial affection !' 

' No, I don't. You wouldn't believe me if I did. I went out 
to stop the old man making a fool of himself, and carry the case 
further still. I wanted something saved out of the fire for 
myself.' 

' Did you succeed ?' 

' No. Got there to find the old man dead, and every blessed 
halfpenny of his property gone in the law -costs.' 

' You'll excuse me, old fellow, if I suggest that there must 
have been another motive behind.' 

' All right ; if there was, find it out. It wa.° n't the bill busi- 
ness.' 

' I always thought it was.' 

' You were wrong, then. Every acceptance old Isaacs dis- 
counted for me was genuine — as genuine as this one.' 

Mr. Marston drew gently from his waistcoat-pocket a dirty 
and creased piece of paper, and held it out for Dr. Birnie to 
read. 

It was Birnie's acceptance for £500. 

The doctor looked at it, read it, as Marston held it out before 
him. 

' You didn't discount that, then ?' he said quietly. ' I won- 
dered it had never been presented.' 



A CHA T O VF.R OLD TIMES. 37 

' Isaacs wouldn't take it. He said it wasn't worth the stamp 
it was written on.' 

' It wasn't,' said Birnic, with a smile. 

' But it is now,' replied Marston, folding it up carefully and 
putting it into his pocket. 

' You are wrong,' said the doctor quietly. ' It was worth 
nothing then because I was a penniless adventurer. It is worth 
nothing now because it is ten years old, and your claim is barred 
by the Statute of Limitations.' 

For a moment the two men sat eyeing each other in silence. 
Marston was the first to break it. 

I think you'll pay it, in spite of the statute.' 

' Well,' answered the doctor, taking a pipe from the mantel- 
shelf and filling it, ' I may, or I may not. That depends on you. 
I suppose you've something better to offer me than this worth- 
less piece of paper for £500 ?' 

' Perhaps I have.' 

1 Take a pipe from the rack,' said the doctor. ' Here's some 
tobacco. Tobacco is a wonderful sedative, and we want to talk 
tbis matter over calmly.' 

Marston lit his pipe and settled himself down in an arm-chair. 
He was quite ready for a combat, if combat it was to be. 

' Let us review the situation, Ned,' said the doctor. ' Some 
years ago you left this country suddenly. At that time we were 
all down on our luck. You had run through your money leading 
a fast life, so had I, so had Grurth Egerton. We were all 
gamblers and loose fish, and our principal haunt was Josh 
Heckett's betting-office and gambling den in Soho. There was 
only one rich man among us, and we turned rooks to make him 
our pigeon. That was Ralph Egerton, G-urth's cousin. He was 
a drunken, reckless fool, and we thought him an easy prey. He 
came night after night to the den, but he didn't seem to care for 
play ; he lost with a good grace, and we never could quite make 
out why he came. One night there was a furious quarrel there ; 
blows were struok in the struggle, the table was knocked over, 
and the light extinguished. Suddenly Ralph Egerton shrieked 
out that he was stabbed, and when a light was struck we found 
him lying on the floor with a knife in his breast and the life- 
blood pouring out. No one knew who had struck the blow. He 
could not say. There were half-a-dozen strangers present, and 
they got away directly, fearing to be mixed up in a gambling- 
house scandal. The knife was one which had been used to cut 
the corks of the champagne-bottles, and had been lying on the 
table.' 

' Well, I know all about that,' interrupted Marston. 

' Excuse me ; let me review the situation my own way. We 
were all terrified, for we knew what would come out if an inquest 
was held. Old Heckett was like a madman, and beside himself 
with terror. Grurth Egerton was as white as a ghost, and stood 



3? ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

trembling like a child. You and I were the only ones who kept 
our heads. I was just admitted to the profession, and I examined 
the wound, and found that it was a bad one. We held a council 
and agreed what to do. I bandaged the wound up tightly and 
swathed the body round so that no blood could escape ; then you 
went and got a four-wheel cab, and we put him in. We carried 
him between us, talking to him as if he were a drunken man, to 
deceive the cabman. We drove here, to this very villa, which 
was his house, and carried him in. I am quite correct in my 
story so far, am I not ?' 

' Quite,' answered Marston, lazily puffing his pipe. ' Up to 
this point you've told me nothing I couldn't have told you. 
Go on.' 

' Here your part of the transaction ended,' continued the doctor, 
' and the rest was left to me. Ralph Egerton died. I was with 
him to the last. I performed the last offices myself, and when 
the undertaker came he found only a neatly shrouded body. 
Everything was done in my presence, and no one ever had the 
slightest suspicion of foul play. The death was duly registered, 
and my certificate accepted as that of the medical man who had 
attended the deceased during his last illness.' 

Dr. Birnie went to his writing-table, undid a drawer, and 
handed a piece of paper to Marston. 

' Here is a copy of the certificate,' he said. 

Marston read it. It was to the effect that Ralph Egerton had 
been attended for so many days by Oliver Birnie, his regular 
medical attendant, and had died from a complication of diseases 
— the diseases which a life of drinking and dissipation would 
probably culminate in. 

' All this had occurred before I left England,' he said, as he 
handed it back to the doctor. ' I don't see what it has to do with 
my £500.' 

The doctor threw his tobacco-pouch across to him. 

'Have another pipe, and be patient. You'll see directly. 
Well, after Ralph Egerton had been buried, it was found that 
Gurth was his next heir, and came into all the property ; and a 
nice little haul it was. There was a lot of ready money, and 
some comfortable house property, and no end of stocks and 
shares.' 

' I didn't know that Gurth was the heir when I left,' said 
Marston. 

' Of course you didn't. You might not have gone if you had 
known, eh ?' 

' That's a matter I won't discuss now,' answered Marston. 
' All I know is that I'm back again, that I haven't got a ma« 
in the world, and that, as you and Egerton seem to have done so 
well, perhaps you'll come down handromely for an old friend.' 

' My dear fellow, that's just where you make the mistake. I 
am not a rich man. I've got a little practice, and I have a 



A CHAT 01 ER OLD TIMES. 39 

carriage and pair for appearance sake, in the hope of working up 
a better. It isn't mine. I hire it when I want it, and use it as 
an advertisement. This house I have lived in since Ralph died 
here. Gurth let it to me cheap on a long lease. Gurth has 
behaved very handsomely to me, and, as a matter of fact, that is 
the reason I have been able to appear well-to-do on a practice 
which really is not lucrative.' 

' I don't suppose generosity had much to do with it,' growled 
Mars ton. 

' As you will, my boy. It isn't worth while discussing the 
motive — the fact remains. Gurth has done well since you left. 
I have only done well through Gurth.' 

'I see what you are driving at,' said Marston. 'You moan 
that if I want help Gurth is the man I ought to go to. Well, 
where is he ?' 

' At the bottom of the sea,' answered the doctor, knocking tho 
ashes out of his pipe. 

Ned Marston jumped up in a rage and strode across the room 
to where Birnie sat. 

' Look here, Oliver Birnie,' he cried, clutching his arm, ' thi3 
game doesn't suit me. I'm not to be humbugged by your cool as 
a cucumber business. I'm back in London, and I've got to live. 
I look for my old friends, and I can find only one of them — you. 
You owe me £500, statute or no statute — are you going to pay 
it?' 

' My dear fellow, it was only a gambling debt in the first 
place, and in the second it's not recoverable on account of its 
age.' 

' I only ask you for £500 for this bit of paper. Give me that, 
and I'll make a fair start, and go ahead right enough. I've got 
my wits about me, and pluck enough for a dozen men. Give me 
the money, and you won't be troubled with me any more.' 

' Sit down and talk sensibly,' said the doctor quietly, ' and I'll 
see what I can do for an old comrade in distress.' 

The doctor and his visitor were closeted together in earnest 
conversation for over an hour. When Marston went out through 
the garden gate, Rebecca looked after him with as much scorn as 
her features could assume. 

' He ain't been here for no good, I'll wager,' she said to herself. 
' If he ain't got something in his pocket as he didn't bring in with 
him my name ain't Rebeccer.' 

Rebecca was quite right. Mr. Marston had something in 
his pocket that he didn't bring in with him. It was a cheque 
for £500. 

In spite of his non-lucrative practice, Dr. Birnie evidently had 
a balance at his banker's. 



4© ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

CHAPTER VIII. 

MR. DUCK'S NEW LODGERS. 

It is a week since Mr. and Mrs. George Smith have taken up 
their residence beneath the humble rooftree of Mr. Jabez 
Duck. 

' Quite the gentleman,' says Miss Duck, when she discusses the 
new lodgers with her brother. 

' And quite the lady,' adds Mr. Duck, upon Avhom Bess's bright 
country face has made a great impression. 

' You're an idiot, Jabez,' answers Georgina. ' She may be a 
lady in comparison with the persons with whom you are in the 
habit of associating— housekeepers, cooks, and such like menials 
—but Mrs. Smith is not a real lady. Anybody could see that 
with half an eye.' 

' Well, my dear, I've got four half eyes, and I say distinctly 
that a well-bred and well-behaved young woman •' 

' Quite so, Jabez ; she is a very nice young woman : but a 
young woman is not a young lady.' 

Mr. Jabez gave premonitory symptoms of a small joke by 
increasing in shininess. A smile spread up to the roots of his 
hair. 

' A young woman is not a young lady ; but a young lady must 
be a young woman. Ha, ha !— that's a paradox.' 

' It may be a paradocks, or a Victoria Docks, or an East India 
Docks, or any docks you like,' said Miss Duck, snappishly ; ' but 
if Mrs. Smith s a lady, I'll eat my head.' 

' Don't, my dear,' exclaimed Jabez, with the premonitory shine 
bursting forth again. ' It would be sure to bring on indigestion, 
and your temper's awful when your digestion's bad.' 

' Jabez, you're a contemptible idiot. Such frivolous tom- 
foolery may suit the menial classes with which you mix ; but 
don't bring it into this house, if you please.' 

Jabez evidently thought he'd made quite as many small jokes 
as bis sister could stand for one day, so he finished his breakfast 
in silence and departed citywards. 

The menial classes were metaphorically hurled at his head 
now whenever he and his sister were together ; but Jabez was 
not to be provoked into picking up the gauntlet ; and, in spite 
of all Georgina's hints, the name of Mrs. Turvey never crossed 
his lips. 

Leaving Mr. Jabez to get to the office by himself, let us 
walk upstairs to the first floor, and pay a visit to the newly 
married couple. 

"We will knock at the door first, for young married couples do 
not sit on either side of the room, with all the furniture between 
them as a barricade, like many old married couples do. 



M K. JJUCK '£ /VJl W LUDItERS. 4! 

Mr. and Mrs. Smith have just finished breakfast. George is 
sitting in a low chair reading the newspaper, and Bess is on a 
hassock at his feet, looking up at him and doing a little quiet 
hero-worship. 

Their marriage certificate is a week old. George resided in 
the apartments long enough to qualify for a licence, and then 
Bess came up to town and they were married quietly, and went 
back to spend their honeymoon at Dalston. George has been so 
good and kind, and Bess has been so happy, it has been quite 
like fairyland. Wandering about the Park hand in hand, lunch- 
ing at the pastrycooks', going to Madame Tussaud's and to the 
theatre— it had seemed as if the people who had never got 
married on the sly and gone into apartments for the honeymoon 
could never have known what real happiness was. 

George let a week go by in unalloyed bliss, then he put his 
hand in his pocket and counted his change out of the forty 
pounds he started married life with ; he had but twenty left. 
Directly he made that discovery it was decided to take buses 
instead of cabs, and to go to the pit instead of the upper boxes, 

' And George dear,' said Bess, ' we must be very careful and 
economical till you get something to do. I think we'll begin to 
dine at home instead of going out every day.' 

' Yes, dear, I think we'd better,' said George. ' I suppose Miss 
Duck won't mind you cooking in the kitchen ?' 

' Of course not, dear. Let's start housekeeping to-day. What 
shall we have for dinner V' 

George suggested lots of things, but they were all too much 
for two people. 

Bess was perplexed too. Suddenly a bright idea occurred. 

' Oh, George dear,' she said, ' do you think you could eat a 
nice little toad-in-the-hole ?' 

' A toad-in-the hole, little woman ? Splendid ! I say, can you 
really make one, though ?' 

' Yes, indeed I can. Father used to say ' 

For a moment her voice quivered and her eyes filled with 
tears. 

Smiling through them as the April sun gleams through the 
showers she went on : 

' You must taste my toad-in-the-hole. I'll make one to-day, 
and you shall help me.' 

' I — I don't think I can, dear,' answered her husband, pulling 
his moustache doubtfully. ' I'm an awful duffer with my hands, 
you know.' 

' Don't be a goose. You shall go and buy the things.' 

George had his hat on directly. 

Bess gave him her reticule to take on his arm, and then told 
him to buy two neck chops and some flour and some eggs. 

' And be sure you see your char.ge is right, you careless boy,' 
.she added, laughing. 



42 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

George Heritage marching down the street with a reticule in 
his hand was a sight worth seeing. He felt as proud of his com- 
mission as if Her Majesty had made him a plenipotentiary. He 
wasn't quite sure where you got the flour and the eggs, so ho 
tried the butcher's for the latter and the greengrocer's for the 
former, but at last he got into the right shops. 

' I want some flour, please,' he said to the man behind the 
counter. 

' How much, sir?' 

' Well, I don't know quite. About enough to make a toad-in- 
the-hole for two.' 

The man stared at his customer for a minute, and then sug- 
gested perhaps half a quartern would do. 

' Certainly,' said George. If the man had said a hundredweight 
or an ounce he would have said the same. 

When all his commissions were executed — though not without 
considerable puzzling over quantities — George marched home in 
triumph. 

He had only broken one egg and let the flour all over the reti- 
cule by poking the chops in so that the sharp point of the bone 
made a hole in the bag. Bess lifted the lid, looked into the reti- 
cule, and gave a little scream. 

It was annoying to have the chops and a broken egg aif 1 the 
flour all mixed up together ; but still, as it was George's first 
journey to market, he was forgiven. 

He had a hug, and was ordered to sit still and not get into 
mischief while his wife went downstairs into the kitchen and 
prepared the delicate dish. 

It was a happy dinner, I can tell you ; better than all your 
Richmond follies and your London restaurant nonsenses. The 
toad-in-the-hole was delicious, and George insisted upon Miss 
Duck tasting it, and he informed Miss Duck that he'd been to 
market, and did Miss Duck ever taste anything so delicious in 
her life ? 

Miss Duck said, ' La, Mr. Smith, what a funny man you are ! ' 
and then George made small jokes, smaller than any jabez had 
ever been guilty of in his life ; but Miss Duck giggled pro- 
digiously. 

George declared privately to Bess that Miss Duck was a very 
decent old soul ; and as Georgina had been particularly gracious, 
Bess agreed that she was. ' Only it's lucky for you, George, she's 
so old and plain, or I should be jealous.' 

I hope Miss Duck wasn't listening at the key-hole to hear 
this remark, and I sincerely trust she wasn't looking throuo-h. 
it to witness the manner in which George closed Bess's wicked 
little mouth. 

That was yesterday. This morning there is no frivolity going 
on. George is reading the newspaper in order to find a berth 
that will suit him. 



MR. DUCK'S NEW LODGERS. 4.3 

The disappearance of half his capital has reminded him that 
lie is no longer a gentleman, but a young man who has a wife to 
keep and his living to earn. 

When ho comes to a likely advertisement, he reads it aloud to 
Br-s, and they discuss it. 

• How do you think this will do, dear ?' he says, presently : 

' " Wanted, a married man, without encumbrance, to drive a 
pair, look after a small garden, help in the house, and fill up his 
spare time as amanuensis to a deaf lady. A small salary, but the 
person will have the advantage of living in a vegetarian family, 
where total abstinence and Church of England principles offer 
special advantages to a true Christian." 

' How'll that do ?' asked George, with a smile. 

' Not at all,' answered Bess, laughing. ' But George dear, 
what does " encumbrance " mean ?' 

"' You, my pet.' 

' Oh, I'm sure it doesn't. What does it mean ?' 

' Ask me again in a year or two, my darling,' answered George, 
with a wicked little smile, and then he went on with his paper. 

Bess went on wondering what ' encumbrance ' a married man 
could have till George read her another advertisement. 

' Advertiser would be glad to hear of a gentleman by birth, 
not more than thirty, who would introduce advertiser's home- 
made brandy to the upper classes. A liberal commission given. 
A real gentleman might do well.' 

' Oh, George,' said Bess, ' don't go after that, dear. I don't 
want you to go walking about with brandy-bottles sticking out 
of your pockets.' 

' And fancy introducing it to the upper classes, eh ? This 
sort of thing : — Allow me to introduce you : Upper Classes — 
Home-made Brandy. Home-made Brandy — Upper Classes.' 

Bess laughed as George introduced the arm-chair to the sofa 
with a stately bow. The arm-chair was the brandy, and the sofa 
was the upper classes. 

George read on, selecting the funny advertisements for Bess's 
amusement. Suddenly he put the paper down. 

' By Jove, Bess,' he exclaimed, rubbing his hands, ' I believe 
I've found the very thing. Listen to this, little woman.' 

George picked the paper up, folded it out carefully, rose and 
struck a commanding attitude, then, clearing his voice, he read 
aloud the following advertisement : 
_ ' " Wanted immediately, a gentleman for a commercial office. 
Xo previous experience necessary. Hours, ten to four. Salary 
to commence with, £150 per annum. N.B.— Must be of gentle- 
manly appearance and address. — Apply, in first instance by letter, 
to A. B., Burkett's Library, Leicester Square." ' 

' Oh, George,' exclaimed Bess, when he had finished, ' do write 
at once. It would be just the thing to begin with.' 

'Magnificent!' answered her husband. 'Hours ten to four, 



44 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

no previous knowledge, and £3 a week. Why, my dear, it would 
be a splendid beginning.' 

' So it would,' said Bess ; ' and I'm sure, dear, you're just what 
they want.' 

George grinned. 

' I say, little woman ' (the conceited fellow was looking in the 
glass all the while), ' the applicant must be of gentlemanly ap- 
pearance. Perhaps my appearance will be against me.' 

' You vain boy ; you want me to flatter you,' said Bess, looking 
at him lovingly, ' and I shan't. You'll do very well indeed, sir, 
and you know it.' 

George was quite certain he should do. 

Bess routed out some writing-paper, and then she went down 
to Miss Duck and borrowed a pen and ink, and then she and 
George sat down and spoilt a dozen sheets of paper, and at last 
between them they produced the following : 

'Mr. George Smith presents his compliments to Mr. A. B., 
and he would be very pleased to accept his offer. He is four- 
and-twenty, active, and anxious to get on. If Mr. A. B. wishes 
for an interview, he will call at any time Mr. A. B. chooses 
to appoint. Mr. George Smith thinks it well to enclose his 
carta for Mr. A. B. to see. Will Mr. A. B. kindly answer per 
return.' 

When the important note was folded and in the envelope. 
and the address had been carefully copied from the paper, Bess 
and George both went together to put it in the post. Bess 
peeped down the letter-box to see if it had gone safely in, and 
then George peeped, and then they both walked away full of 
hope, and feeling sure that the photograph would settle the 
matter at once. 

' If A. B. were a lady it would,' said George. 

Then Bess said he was a nasty vain thing, and he thought all 
the girls were in love with him. 

To which George replied that it didn't much matter if they 
were, as he was only in love with one girl, and she was the 
dearest little girl in the world, and God bless her little heart, 
etc., etc., which style of conversation being probably quite 
familiar to the reader, there is no necessity to make further 
extracts from it. 

It was very wicked of Boss to do what she did that night, I 
dare say, but you see she had not been brought up very well. 
She knelt down and prayed to God to bless her dear husband, 
who had sacrificed so much for her, and she asked Him to let 
them live happily together all their lives ; and, oh, if God would 
only let George get this situation and make Mr. A. B. love him, 
she would be, oh, so thankful. Her heart was full of gratitude 
to God for giving her George's love, and that night it poured 
out and spread itself over everything she loved and knew. And 



CONCEHNJNG GERTIE IIECKETT 45 

as she was dropping off to sleep, George distinctly heard her 
sav, — 

"•God bless Mr. A. B.' 

And he wasn't a bit jealous, 



CHAPTER IX. 

CONCERNING GERTIE IIECKETT, A KIND LADY, A GOOD DOG, AND 
A WICKED BIRD. 

Mr. Josh Heckett was about again, and Gertie and the animals 
were having a bad time of it. 

The temporary retirement from business which had been 
necessitated by Mr. Heckett's injuries — how those injuries were 
acquired he had not yet condescended to explain to any one — 
had not given that calm to his mind which retirement from 
business is supposed to give. Towards the close of his illness, 
and just before he was allowed to go out, a vigorous playfulness 
had set in, which was very badly appreciated by the inhabitants, 
biped and quadruped. Mr. Heckett had playfully hurled his 
pillows at the rabbit-hutches, and had taken to pelt the dogs 
with such handy trifles as the candlestick, a plate, a cup, a pair 
of snuffers, or a boot. 

The dogs growled and put their tails between their legs, 
crouched in corners and behind anything that yielded a tem- 
porary barricade. 

Gertie and Lion usually retired when these fits set in. Not 
that he threw things at either of them — he knew better than 
that. But he swore fearfully, and that frightened Gertie worse 
than the boots and the pillows ; so she would motion to her dear 
old Lion, and they would creep out quietly and leave grand- 
father to it. 

It had been a whim of Heckett's when he was brought home 
with a cracked skull from one of his midnight wanderings to 
have his bed brought in among the animals. ' They'd be com- 
pany,' he said. ' He didn't want to lie alone, with no end of 
horrible things dancing across his brain.' Gertie's little room 
was upstairs. She had slept there ever since she could remem- 
ber. They had two other rooms — one on the same floor as 
Gertie's, and one behind the animals' room, where Heckett slept 
when he was well. 

The house was three floors high, so that Heckett occupied 
two, and the ground floor, with an open shop, was let to a 
gentleman in the old clothes line, who shut it up at night, and 
went to another shop of his higher up the street, where he lived. 

When Gertie and Lion, were gone away, Heckett would lie 
and curse to his heart's content, and he had a companion who 
used to curse in chorus. 



46 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

There was a parrot among this strange collection who swore 
like a trooper, and who, since he had come to live with Heckett, 
had considerably improved his vocabulary. It was grotesque 
but supremely awful to listen to the grey-haired reprobate 
shrieking and blaspheming and the parrot mocking him. Some- 
times Heckett would lose his temper and swear at the bird, then 
the bird would swear back at him, and a cursing match, not to 
be equalled in the Dials, would take place. Heckett would get 
so mad while he lay there helpless, that he would threaten the 
bird with summary vengeance. The bird caught up his threats 
at last, and occasionally Mr. Heckett's visitors would be startled 
to hear a voice from somewhere in the corner suddenly shriek 
out, — 

' Bless you, I'll have your blood !' or ' Bless your beautiful 
eyes, you screeching devil, I'll wring your beautiful neck !' 

The adjectives are slightly altered, but the sense of the parrot's 
mild observations remains unimpaired. 

As Heckett grew better, the wordy warfare between himself 
and the parrot increased in vigour, till a person, listening out- 
side, would have believed that two horribly depraved wretches 
were about to commence a murderous struggle. 

What with grandfather's language and the parrot's language, 
poor G-ertie got more uncomfortable every day. The child had 
one of those sensitive natures which are quick to appreciate the 
difference between right and wrong. 

Left alone almost from babyhood with the animals and the 
birds, she had grown to love them and look upon them as her 
playmates. Into their ears she poured hor troubles. It was her 
task to feed them all, and give them their water, and never was 
handmaiden more faithful to her duties. 

It shocked her terribly that the parrot should swear. Grand- 
father she expected it from, but that this wicked, depraved bird 
should come to pollute the atmosphere was too bad. 

She used to put her hands over Lion's ears, so that he shouldn't 
understand. She blushed sometimes when she was alone with 
her pets to think that Lion should be in the room with her 
when such language was going on. 

How Gertie came to be so clean and pure, and to have so 
much modesty and good sense, amid such surroundings, was 
a mystery to everybody but Gertie herself and one other 
person. 

That person was a lady who came in the day time, often when 
the old man was out. She came first with the police to look for 
a stolen dog, and Gertie's sweet face and gentle manner struck 
her. 

She was a woman of the world, and guessed that any open 
o.Tcr of sympathy would be resented by the child's guardian. 
So she found out when Gertie was alone, and came to see her. 
She was a good customer, for she bought canaries, and white 



CONCERNING GERTIE HECKETT 4 7 

mice, and guinea-pigs ; but really she came to see Gertie and to 
rescue her from the contamination around. 

Miss Adrian, Gertie's protectress, found out what times her 
■proti-ijee was most likely to be alone, and she made various 
excuses to visit her, and taught her to read and write unknown 
to the grandfather. 

She taught the child more than this. She gradually imparted 
to her the outlines of the beautiful Christian faith, and under 
her fostering care the little wild, uncultivated bud blossomed 
into a sweet and delicate flower. 

Seeing his granddaughter in a clean face, and finding her 
always tidy and civil, and loth to go into the street and play 
with the other children, old Heckett had been surprised at first, 
but he had put it down to the contrariness of the female nature, 
and had not troubled himself to inquire further into the matter. 
Once when he was asked how it was Gertie was always so clean 
and tidy and good, he had growled out something about breed, 
and had hinted darkly that Gertie's father must have been a 
gentleman. 

This observation points to the fact that Gertie's birth was 
shrouded in some slight mystery. What that mystery was the 
reader will learn in due course. She was old Heckett's grand- 
daughter ; of that there was not the slightest doubt. 

It was a strange fight to see Gertie at her lessons among the 
animals. These hours were the happiest of the poor child's life. 
When the day came round for Miss Adrian's visit, Gertie would 
wait anxiously for grandfather's departure. Then she would go 
and stand at the door and look up the street, and Lion would 
stand beside her. 

If Bliss Adrian saw the dog and the child together she knew 
that she might come in. If Gertie was alone she would pass 
by, just speaking a few words to the child as she went along. 

Gertie spoke of Miss Adrian to Lion as ' the beautiful lady,' 
and Gertie's description would hardly have been disputed by 
any one who knew what real beauty was. Ruth Adrian, at the 
age of twenty-eight, was as young looking as many a girl of 
eighteen. If it ever comes into fashion to print actual coloured 
photographs of an author's characters in his story, it will save the 
male writer much vexation of spirit. Ladies can tell you at a 
glance the colour of everybody's hair and eyes, the modelling of 
the chin, the expression of the lips, and the character of the 
nose. The present writer, if asked suddenly, when away from 
his domestic circle, the colour of his nearest female relative's 
eyes, would have to telegraph home for the information. To 
such a one the minute personal description of his characters is 
indeed a task, but he is bound to attempt it. What would the 
ladies say if he left them in doubt as to the colour of his hero's 
eves V What would the gentlemen say if he failed properly to 
describe the beautiful features of sweet Rath Adrian ? 



48 ROGUJCS A A 7) VAGABONDS. 

Picture, then, a tall young lady, with soft grey eyes, fair 
cheeks, in 'which the delicate white and pink had never been 
marred by the pernicious adjuncts of the modern belle's dressing- 
table ; a small, almost baby mouth, that seemed specially de- 
signed to spread a perpetual smile over the face ; brown hair, 
neatly and smoothly arranged over a forehead almost too high 
for a woman's ; and a nose which a Greek sculptor might have 
borrowed for his Diana. 

Here you have what the auctioneers would call a catalogue of 
the features of Ruth Adrian. Picture her thus and you will 
behold a marble statue ; to see her as she was, a sweet and 
noble English woman, the beautiful spirit that was hers must 
animate the lifeless clay. Let truth and love shine out from 
the soft grey eyes, over the fair cheeks spread the glow of 
health and the smile of innocence, listen to the gentle words of 
sympathy with all God's creatures that fall so softly from the 
well-shaped lips ; let the inner beauty of her noble, loving 
nature shine through and illuminate the whole, as the soft light 
of the lamp in my lady's boudoir glows through the daintily 
decorated shade that covers it, and brings the hidden beauties 
into tender relief ; think of liuth Adrian, not as a beautiful 
doll, but as a noble woman, and then you will see her as she 
was. 

The one great trouble of her life had chastened her beauty, 
and left upon her features that gentle look of melancholy which 
poets love to give their heroines. 

Ruth had loved and lost. The man who won her girlish 
heart had been unworthy of her. She believed him to bo an 
honourable English gentleman ; she discovered him to be an 
adventurer and a scamp. 

The moment the fatal truth was revealed to her, the quiet 
heroism of her character asserted itself. She renounced him, 
not with scorn or indignation, but with loving words and gentle 
pity. She bade him farewell, and buried her unhappy love in 
the innermost chamber of her heart. She bowed beneath the 
blow, and prayed God for strength to bear it. He went his way, 
and she went hers, and from that moment the poor and suffering 
took the vacant place in her heart. 

She didn't break her heart, but, like a brave woman, resolved 
to devote the life that should have been lived for a man to her 
suffering fellow-creatures. Sho had a hearty sympathy with 
the poor and oppressed, with dumb animals and little children, 
and she went about doing good quietly and effectively. 

lluth Adrian was free from the cant which mars the efforts of 
so many well-meaning people. If she could save a soul she was 
delighted, but sho always tried to save the body first. The 
penny-packet-of -tea-dust-once-a-month - and - tracts - once-a-week 
system of mission work she despised. She did not bribe people 
to be hypocrites, neither did she have holy names in her mouth 



CONCERNING GERTIE HECKETT 49 

in season and out of season. She wont with the precepts of the 
loving Lord in her heart instead of on her lips, and so she 
conquered where the professional missionary, male and female, 
failed utterly. 

She had taken a deep interest in Gertie from the first, and, as 
the beauties of the child's nature blossomed in the sunshine of 
her care, she grew to love the little outcast with almost maternal 
love. 

She had a great fight with her conscience over keeping their 
connexion a secret from the grandfather ; but she fouud out for 
a certainty that she would be forbidden the house, and so for 
Gertie's sake she played the Jesuit, and convinced herself that 
the end justified the means. 

Gertie's books were hidden up in her bed-room, where Hecketb 
never went. Only Lion knew about them. She was beginning 
to write a little now, and she had a slate on which she wrote 
letters to Lion and to Miss Adrian and did little sums. 

It was a strange sight to see Ruth and her protegee at lessons. 
The foxhound and the spaniel and ihe bulldog always wagged 
their tails when Ruth came in, and then sat down on their 
haunches and stared at the proceedings. 

Lion was privileged. He was one of the class. But then he 
was such a superior dog to all the others. They were always 
being sold and going away and being replaced by other dogs 
before they had learned proper behaviour. But Lion was part 
of the establishment. Heckett kept him to guard the premisos, 
perhaps. 

When Ruth had gone, Gertie would sit with her arm round 
Lion's neck and say her lessons over to him, and explain things 
that perhaps might not be quite clear to him. 

Lion said nothing, but he evidently thought a good deal. 
Unfortunately, there was a member of the menagerie who 
behaved very indifferently. That was the parrot. 

The parrot's interruptions were shameful and scandalous. 
When Miss Adrian was there ho had to be quieted with lumps 
of sugar. He rarely swore before her. Gertie was very thank- 
ful for that. The parrot only swore as a rule at grandfather. 
But Polly interrupted lessons ; in fact, she took part in them. 

When Miss Ruth, by constant repetition, had impressed upon 
Gertie that England was an island, surrounded by water, the 
parrot said ' Humbug,' and persisted in saying ' Humbug.' 

Gertie apologised for Polly's rudeness, and hoped her mistress 
would look over it, and Ruth laughed merrily and told her it was 
Polly's bad bringing up. 

Then, again, when Gertie repeated the multiplication table, and 
said, ' Twice one is two,' Polly would shriek out ' Gammon.' 

' Humbug ' and ' gammon ' were the mildest words in Polly's 
vocabulary. Doubtless she selected them for the occasion in 
deference to Miss Adrian. 

4 



So ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

When her mistress was gone Gertie would lecture Polly 
severely. 

' Polly,' she said, one day, with tears in her eyes, ' unless you 
repcr.t you'll go to the bad place. You must have a new heart, 
Polly. Oh, Polly, why are you so wicked ?' 

' Humbug,' shrieked Polly, with a chuckle. 

' But you are wicked, Polly ; and nothing that's wicked can 
be happy. Miss Adrian says so.' 

' Gammon,' shrieked Polly. 

Gertie gave Polly up in despair, and turned to Lion for 
comfort. He at least was good, and did not swear and use bad 
words. 

' Look at Lion, Polly, what an example he sets you,' ex- 
claimed Gertie one day in despair. ' Lion's a ' 

' Humbug,' interrupted the Satanic bird. 

'He's not a humbug, Polly,' cried the child, stamping her 
little foot. 'He's a dear, kind, loving dog. But we forgive 
you, because we must forgive our enemies. Miss Adrian says so.' 

'Gammon,' said the bird; and then suddenly it leapt about 
the cage, shrieking and swearing so fiercely that Gertie seized 
Lion by the collar and led him out of the room, offering up a 
little prayer as she went that Polly might see the error of her 
ways before she died and was utterly lost. 

During Heckett's illness the lessons had been abandoned, but 
from time to time Gertie had exchanged greetings with her kind 
teacher at the door. 

When the old man got well enough to be about, he began to 
go out as usual, and Gertie was delighted to think she could 
renew her studies and the happy times with Miss Adrian. 

One visit, which was paid a few days after Heckett's renewal 
of his old habits, was fraught with consequences so serious to 
all concerned that it will require a chapter to itself. 



CHAPTER X. 

IN WHICH GRIGG AND 1 1. M PET EXPLAIN. 

' Time ?' asked Grigg. 

' Eleven,' said Limpet, looking at his watch. 

Grigg was tall and thin. Limpet was short and fat. Admir- 
able lawyers and admirable men ; they made admirable partners. 
Solicitors to dozens of wealthy families, tin boxes lettered in 
white, lined the walls of every room. Envious neighbours said 
that Grigg started in the profession with six dozen of the said 
boxes, bought cheap at a sale, and that the capital which Limpet 
brought into the business was a gross more. 

Of course, this was merely malice. Doubtless each one of those 
tin boxes was crammed with deeds relating to millions and mil- 



in which a Rica and limpet explain. 51 

lions mid millions of money. The statement that Grigg kepthis 
old hats in the one labelled ' His Grace the Duke of Cheshire,' 
and that Limpet junior used tho one Libelled ' Tlio Candlestick 
Makers' Company' to keep Uie back liles of ;i sporting paper 
from injury, is on a par with tho other malicious assertions 
above referred to. 

Limpet junior doesn't trouble tho firm much. He used to 
come down occasionally about eleven, put the kettle on in his 
private ollice, and as soon as the water was warm enough he 
would wash his hands and go home again. One day ho opened a 
Idler marked ' Immediate,' and put it into his pocket in order 
not to forget it. He wore tho same coat again when he went to 
P.oulogne, about six months afterwards, and he found tho letter 
when he wanted a bit of paper to write an I U for A!, r >0 on, for 
a. gentleman who had boen good enough to play cards with him 
at the Ltablissement. ]Ie posted it home with praiseworthy 
prom pi i hide. Grigg and Limpet were sued for negligence in not 
attending to that letter, and it cost them .V/JOO to stay the pro- 
ceedings. After that the partners agreed that the less Limpet 
junior attended to business, tho more likely he was to bo worth 
the salary he drew. 

Grigg and Limpet are sitting opposite each other to-day in 
room l'>. All the rooms are lettered, and this has a great effect 
upon clients. Pancy a business so extensive that the very rooms 
have to be lettered for fear they should get mixed ! 

' Time ?' says Grigg, looking up again. 

' Ten past/ answers Limpet. ' Time thoy were here.' 

Limpet always says more than Grigg. 

A clerk comes in. 

' Dr. P.irnie, if you please, sir.' 

' lioom (!,' says (Jrigg. 

Presently another clerk conies in. 

' .Mrs. Turvey, please, and a little girl.' 

' Iviiom 1),' says Limpet. 

A third clerk enters. 

' Mr. John Symonds.' 

' Itoom I'',' says Grigg. 

The clerks having retired to do their bidding, the partners sit 
still for a few minutes. 

' Time V says (1 rigg. 

' Twenty-past,' says Limpet. ' I think that will do.' 

Clients calling on Grigg and Limpet are always kept waiting 
from ten minutes to a quarter of an hour. Lawyers with such 
an enormous business are never disengaged at a moment's 
notice. 

Grigg goes to the side of the room where several speaking- 
tubes are arranged. These are lettered A, 15, (', 1), E, and ¥ 
Malice says they all communicate with the same ollice ; but what 
will not malice say ? 

4-2 



52 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Show all parties to the Egerton case in,' says Grigg, speaking 
up the tube. 

Presently the three clerks appear, bringing in the doctor, Mrs. 
Turvey and. Topsy, and Mr. Symonds, who, judging from his 
appearance, is a seafaring man. 

Grigg and Limpet bow and motion the visitors to the seats. 

Grigg bows to the ladies, Limpet to the gentlemen. 

' Mr. Limpet,' says Grigg, ' explain matters.' 

' Ahem,' says Limpet, ' we have thought it better, Mr. Grigg 
and myself, to ask you to attend here to-day together in re 
Egerton. I should say in the matter of our client, Mr. Gurth 
Egerton — our late client, I fear I should say. Before taking 
any steps, we have thought — Mr. Grigg and myself have 
thought — that it would be better to hear the evidence in this 
matter, in'order that we — in order that Mr. Grigg and myself 
might, if possible, arrive at some definite conclusion. Ahem, 
ahem.' 

'Will, said Grigg. 

'Exactly. Thank you. The will. The will of the— I fear I 
must say late ?' 

' Say late,' put in Grigg. 

' Exactly ; we will say late, as Mr. Grigg suggests. It is better. 
It is a sad description, but I fear a truthful one.' 

Mr. Limpet looked at Mr. Grigg to see if any emotion was 
advisable. 

1 No relatives,' muttered Grigg. 

'Exactly. There are fortunately no relatives of the decensed 
here, so that we can discuss this matter calmly, without yielding 
to that very natural emotion which in cases of this sort, ahem — 
is, ahem — is, ahem ' 

' Usual,' suggested Grigg. 

' Exactly, which is usual. The will, as you are aware, was left 
in our possession when the, I fear I must say deceased, gentle- 
man set out to travel abroad for the— ahem — for the ' 

' Benefit of his health,' said Grigg. 

' Exactly, the benefit of his health. Alas ! his health was not 
benefited, for I fear that he is now — that he is now ' 

' Bottom of the deep blue sea,' suggested Grigg. 

' Exactly. As Mr. Grigg poetically puts it, at the bottom of 
the deep blue sea. Of course, in cases of this sort there is always 
a difficulty to prove death. There is always a doubt.' 

' Beggin' your pardon, cap'en,' interrupted the seafaring man, 
' but I'm qualified to speak to that there point. There ain't any 
doubt about it at all. Them as goes to the bottom of the sea 
where the Boney's Paw went down is gone to Davy Jones right 
enough.' 

'Exactly. Mr. — Mr. Symonds, thank you. But that is not 
the point. You see — excuse the little humour — we can't call 
Mr. Jones as a witness. Ha. ha 1' 



IN WHICH GRIGG AND LIMPET EXPLAIN 53 

' Ha, ha !' groaned Grigg. Grigg's laugh was exactly the same 
as his groan. • 

' There is a doubt in law, I say ; but that, of course, we shall 
be able to get over. We shall prove the loss of the vessel : we 
shall ascertain that Mr. Egerton was on board ; that he was left 
on board ; that he is not among the survivors, who can all be 
accounted for ; and that, as a matter of fact, he is, as Mr. Grigg 
very sympathetically and, I may say, very poetically observed, 
at the bottom of the deep blue sea — in other words, that he is 
dead. You, Mr. Symonds, I believe, were the last man to leave 
the vessel when the boats put off ?' 

' I were, cap'en.' 

' And you left Mr. Egerton on board ?' 

' There was a passenger o' that name, and I left him aboard.' 

' Both boats were picked up, I believe, by a passing vessel on 
the second day ?' 

' They was,' answered Mr. Symonds. 

' And you are quite certain the passenger known as Mr. Eger- 
ton was not on board either of the boats '(' 

' Sartin.' 

' I think, Dr. Birnie, that is satisfactory ?' said Limpet, turning 
to the gentleman addressed. 

1 Quits,' said the doctor, with a bow. 

' Dr. Birnie, I should say, that all present may understand the 
position, is left sole executor of our — I fear I must say, in fact, 
I will say — our late client's will. He therefore is interested in 
proving the death of our late client. Mrs. Turvey — ahem ! 
Perhaps, Mr. Grigg, you ' 

' Certainly,' said Grigg. Grigg always talked to the ladies. 
'Mrs. Turvey. Madam, under the provisions of the will, you 
receive a legacy of five hundred pounds. Old servant. Very 
proper, and all the rest of it. Go on, M/. Limpet.' 

' Exactly. Mrs. Turvey, therefore you also are interested in 
proving the death of our late client.' 

Mrs. Turvey said 'Thank you,' and dropped a curtsey, and 
wondered whether she ought to shake hands with Grigg and 
Limpet or not. 

' Xow,' continued Mr. Limpet, ' everything would be satisfac- 
tory, but for the extraordinary statement of — Mr. Grigg, perhaps 
you ' 

'Certainly,' said Grigg. 'You see, madam, you and your 
daughter ' 

' Niece,' said Mrs. Turvey, rising and curtseying. 

' Same thing. You and your niece saw a ghost. Law doesn't 
acknowledge ghosts. Either you saw Mr. Egerton, not at the 
bottom of the deep blue sea, but at his own front door, which is 
a different place altogether. Very. Eh ? You did, you know, 
or you didn't. Eh ? Which ?' 

Mrs, Turvey rose and curtseyed to the assembly, 



54 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Which, if it's the last words I ever speak, gentlemen, I see 
Mr. Egerton's ghost that night a-standing at the door, all white 
and looking dreadful. My niece see it first, and she screams and 
I comes up, and I shudders now to think of it. I'll take my 
bappydavid of it, sir, as I'm a Christian woman ; and so'll Topsy : 
won't you, dear ?' 

' Yes,' said Topsy, rather scared at being appealed to. 

"Whether the ' happydavid ' she was required to take was a 
powder or a sweetmeat, Topsy didn't know ; but in the presence 
of G-rigg and Limpet she would have said ' Yes ' to anything. 

' My good lady,' said Grigg, ' we don't doubt you ; but the law 
will. Excuse me — mere form of words— you weren't drunk ?' 

' Lor', no, sir ; I don't do it,' said Mrs. Turvey, bridling up. 

' Of course not. Well, then, if sober, you saw a man, not 
a ghost. Little daughter— beg pardon, niece — saw a man. 
Both sober ; both saw same thing. What was it ? Who was it ? 
Eh?' 

' I attended this lady,' put in Dr. Birnie, ' and I found her 
suffering from a shock to the nervous system. I am sure she 
saw something. It couldn't have been a ghost, and I really don't 
see how it could have been the lamented Mr. Egerton.' 

' Certainly not,' said Grigg ; ' couldn't have been. Sea don't 
give up its dead. Eh, what is it, child ?' 

Topsy was fidgeting on her chair and whispering to her aunt. 

' Speak out, child,' said Grigg. 

' Speak out, little one,' said Limpet ; ' the truth, the whole 
truth, and nothing but the truth — so help — beg pardon — of course 
not. Speak the truth, child ; what is it ?' 

'Please, sir/ stammered Topsy, very red and shamefaced, 
' perhaps it were the Judgment-day.' 

Grigg looked at Limpet, and Limpet looked at Grigg. 

As a lady, Topsy fell to Grigg's share. 

' Judgment- day, eh ? Ridiculous — queer notion, eh? What 
d'ye mean, child ?' 

' Please, sir, it says in the Bible that the sea will give up its 
dead at the Judgment-day.' 

' Ah ! — of course — good girl. Always remember Bible— queer 
notion. But it isn't the Judgment-day yet — at least, I hope not 
—eh, Mr. Limpet ?' 

Mr. Limpet shook his head gravely. Topsy, who wondered 
if she had said something very wrong, hid her face behind her 
aunt's back. 

' The question is,' resumed Limpet, ' Avho was the man Mrs. 
Turvey and the child saw ? That's it, I think, Dr. Birnie ?' 

Dr. Birnie nodded. 

' It was my master, Mr. Gurth Egerton's ghost as I see ' ex- 
claimed Mrs. Turvey emphatically ; ' and nothing will turn me 
from that.' 

Mr, Limpet turned to Mr. Symonxb, 



IN WHICH GRIGG AND LIMPET EXPLAIN. 55 

'We have your statement and your address, I think, Mr. 
Symonds ?' 

' Yes, sir,' answered the seafaring gentleman, ' my address 
when ashore ; but I ain't often there. I'm mostly a little beyond 
the four-mile radius.' 

Mr. Limpet smiled condescendingly. 

' Then for the present we can spare you, Mr. Symonds. The 
firm will see you compensated for any trouble you may ho 
put to.' 

' Thank you, cap'en and gen'l'men, one and all,' said Mr. 
Symonds ; ' and good- morning, ladies — yours most obedient.' 

Mr. Symonds made a leg, swung his hat in the nautical manner 
and rolled out of the room. 

' Mrs. Turvey, for the present I hope you will remain in charge 
of the house now we have found a woman to be with you.' 

' Yes, sir,' answered Mrs. Turvey ; ' I don't mind now I've 
company ; and I never was afeard of human beings ; but ghosts 
I was not brought up to, and never shall be.' 

' Certainly not, my dear madam,' said Limpet. ' We will send 
to you again when necessary. Good-morning.' 

Mrs. Turvey rose to go. She curtseyed, and led Topsy to the 
door. 

' Good-day, child,' said Mr. Grigg. ' Day of Judgment — queer 
notion for a child — always remember Bible.' 

When Mrs Turvey and Topsy had departed, Messrs. Grigg and 
Limpet had a long and earnest conversation with Dr. Birnie, the 
result of which was the drawing up of an advertisement, to be 
inserted in the Times, requesting the present address of Mr. 
George Englehardt, the rescued passenger of the Bon Espoir. 
He might be able to prove even to the law that Gurth Egerton 
was dead, and his property at liberty to be dealt with. 

And when his employers were busy in room B, Mr. Jabez 
slipped out of the office, and, meeting Mrs. Turvey at the door, 
escorted her home to what he informed her he now looked upon 
as a haunted house. 

' The sort of house, Susan,' he said, ' which I had in my 
mind's eye, Horatio, when I wrote a few lines promiscuously, 
beginning : 

And over all there hung a sense of fear 

That e'en the boldest might well have daunted ; 

And apparitions made it very clear 
The place was haunted,' — 

which mutilation of Hood, being dramatically recited in High 
Holborn, caused the passers-by to stare, and Mrs. Turvey to 
clutch hold of Jabcz's arm tightly, if not lovingly. 



56 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

CIIAPTEK XI. 

A VERY NICE OLD GENTLEMAN. 

Two days Lad elapsed since a letter was despatched to Mr. A. B., 
informing him that Mr. George Smith was willing to accept his 
proffered situation, and no reply had been received. 

George declared that Bess's nose was beginning to get quite 
flat at the tip from being constantly pressed against the window- 
glass while she watched for the postman. 

He was a most disagreeable postman. He went next door and 
opposite, and this side and that ; he rattat-tatted at every door 
but Mr. Duck s. 

George got to know the time for the deliveries after the first 
day, and he would go down and wait at the front-door and watch 
the postman as he came down the street. When he got close up 
George felt quite hot ; but as time after time he passed by with- 
out the faintest indication of having anything for the Ducks' 
letter-box, a feeling of terrible disappointment crept over, the 
young man's heart. 

He had made so sure he should have an answer, and so had 
Bess. 

On the morning of the third day, when they were sitting at 
breakfast, lo and behold the long-expected rat-tat came, and 
there was a click in the letter-box, and the postman's boots were 
heard descending the steps — not by themselves, of course, the 
postman was in them. Bess and George jumped up, nearly 
knocking the table over, and Bess tore downstairs. 

Yes, there was a letter in the box. Nervously Bess put her 
hand in and drew it out, and then, half-hopefully, half -fearfully, 
glanced at the direction. 

She could have sat down in the hall and cried with disap- 
pointment. 

It was only a deep black-bordered letter for ' The Occupier.' 
Of course, that was for the Ducks. While she was looking at it 
Miss Duck came out, and Bess handed it to her. 

' Lor', a black border !' exclaimed Georgina. ' I wonder who's 
dead.' 

Miss Duck opened the letter with a nervous hand, and then 
flung it down in disgust. It was an undertaker's circular, offer- 
ing to bury the occupier and family on strictly moderate terms. 

Bess went slowly upstairs, and found George pacing the 
room. 

He knew by his wife's face there was nothing for him, so he 
sighed and sat down to finish his breakfast. 

• Bess,' he said presently, looking into the bottom of his cup 
as if he thought there might be a letter there, ' I shall go and 
look A, B. up.' 



A VERY NICE OLD GENTLEMAN. $7 

Be^s was standing by him, with her hand on his shoulder. 

' Oh, George, look, there is a letter !' she cried suddenly. 

' Where ?' said George, looking inquiringly about him. 

' In the cup, dear ; look, four black dots at the bottom of the 
cup — that means a letter. It always comes true.' 

George laughed. 

' Yon didn't see a coffin in the fire, or a thief in the candle last 
night, did you, dear?' he said. 'What a silly goose you are to 
believe in omens !' 

But, as it happened, the teacup vas a prophet, and Bess was 
quite triumphant over it, for by the twelve o'clock post there 
came a letter from A. B., requesting Mr. George Smith to call 
on him that afternoon at an address in the City. 

When George had read the letter twice over, and Bess had 
read it three times, they had a wild polka round the room, much 
to the astonishment of Miss Duck below, who had fears for the 
ceiling. 

At the appointed time George, letter in hand, presented him- 
self at the address given, and was a little taken aback to find it 
was a public-house. While he was hesitating and wondering 
whether A. B. was the man in his shirtsleeves behind the bar, 
and, if so, what he could want with a gentlemanly person at 
£150 a year, an elderly gentleman, with beautiful long white hair 
and a flowing beard, touched him on the arm. 

' Are you Mr. George Smith ?' said the nice old gentleman, in 
a kind, soft voice. 

' Yes, I am,' said George. ' Are you Mr. A. B. T 

' Yes.' 

George wanted to seize the old gentleman's hand and shake it 
there and then. He was delighted to find A. B. such a venerable 
and very pleasant person. 

' You'll excuse my meeting you here,' said A. B., ' but the fact 
is I wasn't sure my offices would be ready, and as I had business 
in this neighbourhood I thought this would do. I shall be very 
glad to accept you. The terms I think you know — £150 a year, 
paid weekly. The hours are light — ten till four ; the duties also 
are light. I think we shall get on very nicely. You will come 
to-morrow at ten to the address on this piece of paper, and com- 
mence work at once.' 

' Oh, thank you !' exclaimed George, ready to hug the dear 
fatherly old fellow ' I will be there.' 

George took the piece of paper, and put it carefully in his 
pocket. The old gentleman invited him to have a glass of 
sherry, shook hands, with bim and went out, and George rushed 
back to Bess, bursting with the good news. 

They had such a tea that evening on the strength of it. 
George ate muffins and sallylunns, and talked and made jokes, 
and ate all at the same time, and nearly choked himself through 
the tea going the wrong way ; and Bess was so excited that 



58 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

George declared he must take her to the play to keep her 
quiet. 

It was one of the happiest evenings of their short married 
life. The play was beautiful, and they sat in the pit, squeezed 
up close together, and George fell in love with the leading lady, 
and Bess punched him for it, and declared that the villain of the 
piece had made a great impression on her. 

And then they went and had some supper — real chops, at a 
real supper-room— and it was twelve o'clock before they got 
home. George whistled ' Cheer, boys, cheer ' all the way through 
the street, and would have whistled all the way upstairs, had not 
a loud snore proclaimed the fact that sleep was upon the tired 
eyelids of the inmates. So George took off his boots and pre- 
tended to be a burglar, and Bess was obliged to giggle out loud 
when he tumbled over the coal-scuttle on the landing and said 
half a naughty word. 

The next morning, punctually at ten o'clock, George arrived at 
the address given him, and ascended to the third floor, as he had 
been directed. There on a door he found a paper pasted with 
' Smith & Co.' upon it, in a bold round hand. 

He knocked, and the familiar voice of A. B. bade him enter. 

' Good-morning, Mr. Smith,' said that gentleman. ' Glad to 
see you so punctual.' 

George took off his overcoat and put it on a chair in the 
corner. Then he looked round. It wasn't much of an office, cer- 
tainly, and had evidently been taken ready furnished. There 
was a table and two old chairs, a desk that had been a good deal 
used, and a couple of office stools. 

' This is only a branch office of our firm,' said Mr. Brooks, for 
such was his name, he informed George. ' We have offices all 
over London.' 

Mr. Brooks waved his hands to the four points of the compass. 

' I see,' said George. 

' Now, your duty will be to meet me here at ten, and execute 
the various commissions that lie within this radius.' 

George didn't quite understand, but he said, ' Certainly, sir,' 
and sat himself down on a stool. 

' The correspondence this morning is not heavy, and there are 
no commissions, so you can open this ledger. Do you know how 
to open a ledger V 

' Certainly,' said George. How could the old gentleman think 
him such a fool as not to know how to open a book ! 

George took the ledger and opened it. The old gentleman 
smiled. 

' You can write a name at the top of each page.' 

' What name ?' 

' What name ? — well — ah ! Look here, take the City Directory 
lying on the desk, and write the top name of each page.' 

George thought it singular that the firm should do business 



A VERY NICE OLD GENTLEMAN. 59 

with the top name on each page of a directory, but he knew how 
ignorant he was of business matters, and thought he'd better 
say nothing, or he might be found out. 

While he was writing a gentleman came in to see Mr. Brooks. 

He looked at George and then at the old gentleman. 

' Mr. Smith,' said Mr. Brooks, 'kindly go as far as Camion 
Street Station, and inquire at the parcel office if there is a box 
for Smith & Co., from Dublin.' 

George went on his errand, and the old gentleman and his 
visitor were left alone. 

• Well,' said the visitor, ' will he do ?' 

' Prime,' answered the old gentleman. 'Green as grass. Phew, 
these things make me jolly hot.' 

It was certainly a very extraordinary thing to do, but the aged 
representative of Smith & Co. did with the above observation 
take off his long flowing white beard and his long white hair and 
put them on the desk, together with the gold spectacles, and he 
was a different man altogether. 

He had knocked quite thirty years from his age, and he didn't 
look half so nice and pleasant without the gold spectacles. 
When shall you try him ?' asked the visitor. 

' As soon as there's a good chance,' answered Mr. Brooks. 

Mr. Brooks and the visitor had a short conversation, and then 
the visitor left. And Mr. Brooks put on his hair and beard, and 
amused himself by practising handwriting on a piece of paper. 

It was singular that he kept on writing the same name, and it 
wasn't his own. 

When George returned he informed Mr. Brooks that there 
was nothing for Smith & Co., from Dublin, and Mr. Brooks 
said, ' Oh, all right,' and didn't seem at all surprised. 

At four o'clock George's work was done for the day, and he 
went home. 

Bess ran down to meet him at the door. She had been watch- 
ing from the windows, and had seen him coming along the street. 

She had an idea that he would be quite worn out with hard 
work, and had had half a mind to go and fetch him. City work, 
she knew, was very hard. She had read in the newspapers about 
clerks committing suicide, and merchants going mad through 
overwork. She was quite surprised to see George come up the 
steps two at a time, and when he caught her in his arms, and 
gave her a good hug that nearly squeezed the breath out of her 
body, she was more astonished still. 

When they got upstairs, and George had flung himself into his 
favourite chair, Bess poured in a broadside of questions. 

' Did he like it ? Was A. B. nice ? What did he have to do ? 
Was the office comfortable ?' 

George, in reply, gave a full, true, and particular account of 
his day's work. 

' It's nothing at all,' he said. ' I'd no idea how easy it was to 



60 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

earn money in the City. I'm a jolly lucky fellow, little 
woman, and I'm glad I'm able to earn my own living. You 
see, I shall have plenty of spare time to do something else, 
and perhaps, if Smith & Co. like me, I shall get promoted, and 
drop in for a good thing. Why. I have heard that a thousand 
a year is nothing of a salary in the City. Fancy me earning a 
thousand a year ! By Jove, what would the governor say to 
that ?' 

Bess was lost in calculating how much a thousand a year 
would be a week, and how much she should be able to spend in 
housekeeping. 

Presently she started up. 

' Oh, dear me — I'd quite forgotten,' she exclaimed, and, darting 
downstairs, returned with a basinful of something that steamed 
furiously, and a big spoon. 

' There,' she said, putting it down in front of her husband ; 
' now you must have it all. You mustn't leave a drop.' 

' Why, what the dickens is this, my dear '?' said George, staring 
at the basin in astonishment. 

' Beef -tea — I made it myself. You must have it to keep your 
strength up now you work so hard, dear.' 

George roared with laughter. The idea of his wanting beef- 
tea to give him strength to sit on a stool and write names out of 
a directory in a big book ! 

But he scalded his throat with a few spoonfuls of the steaming 
liquid, just to please his wife. 

That evening George took Less out to dinnei - . Had he not 
earned ten whole shillings, the first money he had ever earned 
in his life ? Of course he had. Then he had a perfect right to 
spend fifteen shillings and sixpence at once. 

The young couple had a cab home that evening. George had 
earned ten shillings, and surely he could afford half-a-crown for 
a cab out of it. 

And before they retired to rest that evening Mr. and Mrs. 
Smith had taken a charming little villa near town, and George 
had bought a little pony and a basket-carriage for Bess to drive 
about in, and they had a delightful garden, beautifully kept, and 
a little conservatory ; and George had condescended to make it 
up with his father, and had sent him an invitation to come and 
dine with him at his villa. 

But this was not done out of the ten shillings. Oh, dear, no. 
George and Bess were not so foolish as that. 

This was all arranged in advance out of the thousand a vear 
which George was going to get by-and-by. 



GOES IXTO A LITTLE FAMILY HISTORY Cl 
CHAPTER XII. 

GOES IXTO A LITTLE FAMILY IIIfTOEY. 

Gektie and Lion were in the middle of their lessons, and tlio 
parrot, as usual, was behaving in a most reprehensible manner. 
English history it treated with absolute contempt, geography it 
whistled away to the winds, and the ridicule it cast upon the first 
principles of social morality was deserving of the most severe 
censure. 

' It is wicked to tell an untruth,' said Miss Adrian. 

Lion and Gertie quite agreed with Miss Adrian that it was ; 
but the parrot said, ' Humbug !' 

' And it's wicked to use bad words, Miss Adrian, isn't it ?' said 
Gertie, with a withering glance at the objectionable bird. 

' It is, dear,' answered Miss Adrian, with a smile ; ' but Polly 
has picked up bad words from hearing other people use them, 
and this shows us that when we do and say wicked things, we are 
injuring others as well as ourselves.' 

Gertie quite saw that. She felt that her grandfather was re- 
sponsible to a great extent for the depraved condition of Polly's 
mind. 

' Oh, Miss Adrian,' she said, ' if grandfather could only hear 
you and have a few lessons, I'm sure he would be good. I think 
he doesn't know it's wicked.' 

Miss Adrian sighed. She was woman of the world enough 
to have gathered, from Gertie's innocent confessions, what 
manner of man this old dog-fancier was. She had divined, 
far more than the child herself knew, and had long ago felt 
convinced that this little flower had been reared in a den of 
thieves. 

For a weak woman like herself to attempt the regeneration 
of this burly reprobate she felt would be foolish, and could 
lead to no good result. The chances were that she would be 
forbidden the place, and then Gertie would be without a friend. 

Her only hope was that in time Gertie might be able to have 
some influence herself, and might, in the hands of Providence, 
become a means of leading the old man into a different path. 

Miss Adrian had passed from moral topics, and was hearing 
Gertie her spelling lesson. Gertie generally spelt the things they 
could see from the window and the animals in the room. It gave 
interest to a dry subject. 

She had got beyond dogs, and cats, and rats, and animals of 
one syllable, and now she was in animals of two syllables. 

' Spell parrot,' said Miss Adrian. 

Polly hopped about and gave a shriek. It evidently knew it 
was going to be spelt, and objected strongly. 

' P-a-r,' said Gertie. 



62 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Rot,' shrieked the bird, and the vulgarism came so « propoi 
that Miss Adrian looked at the bird half -fearfully. There was 
undoubtedly something uncanny about this diabolical parrot. 

Just as there was a moment of dead silence after Polly's dis- 
graceful interruption, a footstep was heard on the stairs, and the 
next moment Polly burst out into a torrent of oaths. 

Gertie flushed scarlet with shame, and Miss Adrian changed 
colour. 

The step had startled her, and she felt a sudden terror. It 
might be Heckett coming upstairs, and she felt that a trying 
interview was before her. 

The parrot had recognized the step first. It was Heckett 
sure enough, but not Heckett alone. The old dog-fancier came 
marching into the room, followed by a gentleman Gertie had 
never seen before. 

It was so unusual for her grandfather to come home before 
the afternoon when he went out, that until she saw his face 
Gertie hardly believed it could be he. 

Her cheeks were still crimson with the blushes Polly had 
raised, but she had been reared in an atmosphere of deception, 
and quick as thought she picked up a canary-cage and began to 
extol the beauties of the occupant to Miss Adrian. 

'I think you'll like this one, ma'am,' she said. 'It's a capital 
singer.' Then, turning to her grandfather, she said, innocently, 
' This lady wants a canary, grandfather ; this is as good a one as 
we have, isn't it ?' 

' Yes,' growled the old man ; ' the gal knows her business, 
ma'am.' 

He eyed Euth as suspiciously as if she had been a female 
detective. 

Ruth was looking over the canaries in the corner as Heckett 
and his companion entered, but when the old man spoke to her 
she turned round. Then, for the first time, the stranger and she 
stood face to face. 

The gentleman was the first to speak. 

' Good heavens, Ruth, what brings you here ?' he cried, starting 
forward as though to take her hand, then stopping short and 
dropping his head. 

' Edward — I beg your pardon, Mr. Marston !' stammered Ruth, 
blushing crimson and trembling violently. Gertie and her grand- 
father looked on in astonishment. 

In a moment Miss Adrian had collected herself. 

' I will call again, my child, about the canary,' she said to 
Gertie ; then, lowering her veil, she bowed coldly to Marston 
and walked rapidly out of the room. 

Marston watched her till the door had closed behind her. He 
seemed inclined to follow, but he only took a step forward, and 
then, with an oath, came back again and flung himself down on 
an empty box. 



GOES IX TO A LITTLE FAMILY HISTORY 63 

' This is a ram go, governor,' said Hcckett, after a pause ; 
' what docs it mean V 

1 Do you know that lady ?' asked Marston, answering his ques- 
tion with another. 

1 Xever see her afore. Is she a reg'lar cus., Gertie, or only a 
chance V 

' She comes now and then,' stammered Gertie, hardly knowing 
what to say. 

Marston looked at the child, and then gave a glance at the 
door. 

Heckett interpreted its meaning in a moment. 
' Gertie,' he said, gruffly, ' get out and have a blow. I sha'.l 
be at home for an hour.' 

Gertie put on her little hat and went out for a 'blow,' though 
what sort of a blow, except one on the head, is obtainable in 
Drury Lane it is difficult to conjecture. 

She guessed her grandfather wanted to get rid of her while he 
talked to the gentleman, and so she took the hint at once. 

' Xow then, governor,' said Heckett, making himself comfort- 
able on a rabbit-hutch, and kicking the foxhound and the spaniel 
out of the way, ' perhaps j^ou'll give us the straight tip about this 
here affair. Who's the donner ?' 

' The lac! 1/,' replied Marston, with a meaning emphasis on the 
word, ' is a friend of mine ; that's enough for you. I knew her 
when I was a very different man to what I am now.' 
' I see — old pals — sweetheart, eh ?' 

' Xever you mind what we were,' answered Marston, gruffly ; 
'we didn't come here to talk about sweethearts. What about 
this business ?' 

' Well, if you think this is the best place to meet, I don't mind. 
How many will there be on the job ?' 

' The fewer the better,' answered Marston ; ' but I don't see 
we can do with less than five. There'll be you and myself, Seth 
Preene, and Turvey the guard, and Brooks.' 
' How much will it be, do you think ?' 

' About £20,000. We shall wait till it's quite that. We must 
make a good haul, for the chance will never come again.' 

' It's worth being in,' growled Heckett, filling his pipe ; ' but 
it's a blessed risky affair. What are the shares ?' 
' Half me, and the rest between the four of you.' 
' That ain't fair, I'm dashed if it is,' said Heckett. 
' Yes, it is. I shall have to scheme the whole thing. You'll 
only have to do the rough work. You needn't be in it, though, 
if the terms don't suit.' 

' That's right, Edward Marston, Esq., turn up rusty with an 
old pal,' growled Heckett. 

' I'm not rusty, Josh, but I risk more than all of you over this 
affair, and I'm the only man that can carry it out. Haven't I 
found out where you were, and come to put a good thing in your 



64 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

way, just because you are an old pal ? All the others have agreed 
to the terms, why should you grumble ?' 

' I ain't grumbling, bless you. I'll take it. Give us your 
fist.' 

Marston held out his hand, and Heckett gripped it. 

' Then, that's settled,' said Marston. ' Directly the keys are 
ready we can arrange everything.' 

' By-the-bye,' said Marston, as he was turning to go, ' what 
about that girl ? Where's her mother ? I suppose she's Gertie's 
child, isn't she ?' 

' Gertie's dead !' said the old man, quietly. 

' Gertie dead ? I didn't know that.' 

' She died directly after the Egerton affair — died here. Ah, 
I never could make it out,' added Heckett, smoking his pipe 
fiercely. 

' But she wasn't married, was she ? We never knew that she 
was.' 

' I can't tell you, Marston. I often thinks it over and 
wonders what the real truth of the affair was. Perhaps you 
might help me. You're a scholard and pretty cute. You've 
read them ere stories in the 'lustrated papers as gals read, 
ain't you ?' 

' I have read some of them years ago,' answered Marston. 

' Well, the story of that child as you see here just now 's one 
on em ready wrote. She's my Gertie's young un right enough, 
for she were born here. You knew my Gertie ? She was as 
handsome a wench as you could see in a day's march, and a 
reg'lar lady in her ways, warn't she ?' 

' She was,' said Marston ; ' it was always a mystery how she 
could be your daughter.' 

' She took arter her mother,' answered Heckett ; 'and Gertie, 
the child as you see, takes arter her. Well, you know as when 
I had the betting office in Soho, and young swells used to come, 
and we rigged up a roulette table in the back room ? You 
remember them days ?' 

' Xo one better, worse luck.' 

' You was one of the swells as come here, you and Birnie and 
Gurth Egerton and his cousin Ralph, and you all used to chaff 
my gal and pretend to make love to her, and all that sort of 
bosh.' 

' But she always kept us at a distance ; she was as savage as 
a little tiger if any of us spoke too freely to her.' 

' I know it, and that's why I trusted her among you, for you 
were as fast a lot of young rascals as could be found in London 
at that time, and there wasn't one of you as had a mag to fly 
with, except what you got out of Ralph, for you was all dead 
broke.' 

' You knew it ?' 

1 Yes, I knew it, and I didn't perteiid to be a gentleman. 



GOES INTO A LITTLE FAMILY HISTORY. 65 

Everybody knew what I was ; it was my business to live on 
greenhorns and fools. You was amatoors. You pertended to 
be gentlemen, and you brought a pal here and made him drunk 
night after night, and robbed him.' 

• You had your share.' 

' I don't say I didn't. Well, what happened ? One night, at 
the old drum, there was a big row, the lights were knocked over, 
and in the darkness some one stabbed Ralph Egerton. Who, 
nobody knows, except the man as did it. He was taken away 
and be died at his own place soon after, and was buried, and 
nobody knew anything about it, thank God ! but them as was 
mixed up in it.' 

' Birnie managed that affair deuced well,' said Marston. 

' Yes, he did ; and sometimes I think as be had a reason for 
taking so much trouble. But that ain't here nor there. He seed 
everything right and proper, and kept us all out of an awkward 
row. Ralph's dead and buried, and Gurth had all his money, 
and a pretty pot of it there was, though you had all been rob- 
bing him and living on him for months. Ralph's will left him 
everything, though it was rum it should, for they was never 
very great friends, was they ?' 

' No,' said Marston. ' Go on.' 

Marston was interested. Heckett's words had set him think- 
ing. He was beginning to have a faint clue to something which 
had always been a mystery to him. 

' Well, the next morning I was in the room trying to tidy up 
a bit and get things straight, when in comes Gertie, my gal. 
She looked ill and worried. It was early, and I didn't think 
she'd be down — she slept in the upstairs room— or I should have 
locked the door. 

' " Father," she sez, " was there a row last night ?" 

' '" Not partie'lar, my gal," I sez, a-tryin' to chuck the cloth 
over something on the floor. 

' " I thought I heard quarrelling and blows," she sez. " I hope 
you didn't let them blackguards rob Mr. Egerton again last 
night ?" 

' " I can't help what the fools as comes here does," I sez. 
'' This here ain't a Sunday school, my gal, where they comes to 
sing hymns and say their catechiz." 

' •' I know that, wus luck," she sez, a lookin' at me straight in 
the face. " This here's a den o' thieves, father — that's what it 
is ; and it's people like us as brings murder about." 

1 1 didn't feel comfortable when she began to talk like that, so 
I sez to her : 

1 " You go and get the brekf us ready, my gal, that's what 
you've got to do." 

1 " I shan't," she sez. " Look here, father," — Lor', I can see 
her a-standing there now, poor dear, her eyes aflashin' and her 
bussim heavin' with passion — "you shan't lead this horrible life 



66 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

no longer," she sez. " I'm sick on it. I'll warn Ralph Egerton 
this very day. He don't come here no more." 

' " You're a saucy jade," I sez ; " you go and mind your own 
business." 

' With that, being confused like, I picks up the cloth, and the 
next minute she had me by the arm a-grippin' me till I hollared 
out. 

' " Father," she sez, " what's that ? There's blood upon the 
floor. Father, there's murder been done here this night." 

' With that she drops into a chair and begins to moan and 
rock herself to and fro, and presently she has what they calls 
a fit of the 'sterics, for she begins to larf and cry and shout out. 
Then she rushes out of the room quite mad like, a-yellin' 
" Murder." Well, I got in a funk then, for I see as it would be 
all up if she didn't hold her row, so I bolts after her and seizes 
her. 

' " Leave go !" she shrieks. " Murder ! Help ! Murder !" 

' " Quiet, you devil !" I shouted, gripping her by the throat, 
for I was half mad myself then. " Do you want to hang the lot 
of us ?" 

' She fought and bit and struggled, and, strong as I am, I had 
all my work to hold her. At last she broke loose, and made for 
the stairs, and then ' 

The old dog-fancier drew out a big red handkerchief and 
mopped his brow, for the perspiration stood upon it in great 
beads. 

' And then — God forgive me ! — mad with rage, I struck her a 
violent blow on the head, and she fell to the ground. 

' I was sorry arter, and I'd a cut my 'and off, but what was I 
to do ? She'd ha' had the whole neighbourhood about our ears 
in another minute. 

' She lay quite still where she fell, a-moaning and a-groaning, 
and I kneels down beside her, and I calls her by name, and asks 
her to get up, and tells her as I didn't mean to do it, for, so help 
me God, Marston, that there gal was the only human thing as 
I ever cared for. She never got up, so I lifted her and carried 
her up, and put her on the bed upstairs. 

' She lay there day after day, eatin' a bit now and then, and 
a-moaning and a-talking out loud about things as had happened 
years ago, and I see as her brain was gorn queer. I daredn't 
leave her a minnit hardly, so I shuts the place for a bit. Birnie 
come to see her, for I sent a message to him. He told me he'd 
a come before only he had to see to Ealph Egerton. Then he 
told me what he'd done, and how it was all square, and nobody 
need never be the wiser. Gurth Egerton he come to ask after 
her, and he seemed quite interested in how she was a-goin' on, 
and asked me what she talked about, and all manner o' rum 
questions. 

1 Well, she lied like that for a couple o' months, and Birnie 



goes into a little family history. 67 

told me as she was quite out of her mind, and certainly she did 
talk that wild it was enough to give you the shivers to hear her. 

' " Is there any cause for this here ?" I sez to Birnie, for I 
didn't think as the crack on the head could have done it. 

' " Yes," he says ; " she's evidently been in great trouble, and 
that little affair in the back room settled her outright ;" and 
then he tells me something as regular takes my breath away. 

' I didn't believe it at first, but I found he was right arter all ; 
for one night I had to send for him in a hurry, and the next 
morning my poor girl was dead, and that young un as you see 
in the room jest now was a-crying by the side of her.' 

' And you mean to say you have no idea who Gertie's father 
was ?' 

' Not the ghost o' one. She raved about everything except 
that. The murder was the principal thing she stuck to. 
"They're murdering Ralph!" she'd cry out; "Save yourself, 
Ralph !'' but never a word about a sweetheart, and she died 
without telling us ; and from that day to this I've never found 
out who it was as ruined my poor gal like a villain.' 

The frame of the burly old ruffian shook as he brought his fist 
down on a box by his side. 

' By G !' he said, ' if I could find that out, I swing for 

him now.' 

' You wouldn't,' said Marston quietly. 

' What do you mean ?' 

' Your story's new to me, Josh,' said Marston, quietly, ' and I 
didn't know poor Gertie Avas dead, for I left England soon after 
that affair, as you know.' 

' Yes, you left in a hurry, though nobody ever knew why.' 

' That was my business,' answered Marston, with the air 01 a 
man who declined to be questioned ; ' but I left in total ignor- 
ance of anything but the attack on Ralph.' 

' Some of us thought that was why you did leave.' 

' I had nothing to do with it,' said Marston ; ' but I can tell 
you what you evidently don't know — your daughter had a sweet- 
heart. One of the men who came here came only to see her. 
He met her here first, and afterwards they used to go about to- 
gether in the day-time. One of the men who used your house 
night after night was Gertie's lover.' 

' Tell me his name,' cried Heckett, springing to his feet, with 
a face livid with rage. ' Tell me his name, and by Heaven 
I'll kill him like a dog.' 

' No, you won't,' said Marston. ' Sit down.' He pushed the 
old man back on to the box. ' Now listen. The man who 
loved your girl, who met her day after day, and who only came 
to your den of thieves for her sake, was ' Marston paused. 

1 Quick !' gasped Heckett ; ' tell it me quick ! His name — his 
name ?' 

' Ralph Egcrton !' said Marston. 

5-2 



68 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS, 

The old man's clenched fist dropped to his side. 
At that moment Gertie came in from her walk. 
Heckett called her to him and looked earnestly in her face. 
' By Jove, Marston !' he exclaimed, ' I believe you're right.' 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE MASTER OF EDEN VILLA. 

There is a quiet little turning out of the Camden Road, where 
the whim of an architect has planted some hybrid arrangements 
in brick and woodwork which it would puzzle the unskilled in 
architectural nomenclature properly to describe. 

They might be chalets if they were less like cottages amis; 
they might be cottages ornes if they were less like bungalows ; 
and they might be bungalows if there were not so much of the' 
suburban villa about them. It is possible that the architect in 
preparing the plans saw, like a distinguished statesman, that 
there were three courses open to him, and, being a man who had 
some slight difficulty in making up his mind, determined to 
effect a compromise, and erect buildings which should embrace 
chalet, bungalow, and cottage orne, and also betray a suggestion 
of the suburban villa. 

The houses are pretty enough in their way, are nicely set back 
in picturesque little gardens, and just the kind of places which a 
house agent can describe as ' charming bijou residences.' 

It is not often that one of them displays an agent's board, for 
they are quickly snapped up by persons who wish to live in a 
pretty house and still have the benefit of a good shopping neigh- 
bourhood, and whatever advantages may accrue from a ' close 
proximity to rail, 'bus, and tram.' 

Eden Villa, however, had been to let for at least three weeks, 
when one fine day the milkman noticed the board was down and 
white curtains were up. The milkman, also observing straw in 
front of the gate and in the roadway, concluded at once that a 
new tenant had been found and had moved in. 

Whereupon the milkman left his card, which set forth that he 
kept separate cows for children and invalids, and that families 
■were waited on daily. The baker and the butcher and the grocer 
followed on the heels of the milkman, and very soon the young 
lady with cherry-coloured ribbons in her cap, who answered the 
successive peals at the bell, got out of temper, and informed all 
whom it might concern that ' there wasn't no family there, and 
that what they wanted they'd come and fetch.' 

What else could cherry-ribbons say ? How was she to decide, 
alone and unaided, between the rival claims of seven milkmen, 
six butchers, eight grocers, and ten bakers, whose cards made a 
nice little pack upon the kitchen dresser ? 



THE MASTER OF EDEN VILLA. 69 

Six hours had not elapsed after those white curtains went up 
before the rates called with a rate already made, and the water 
applied for two quarters unpaid by last tenant, and the repre- 
sentative of the local directory requested the full christian and 
surname of the new tenant. 

' Master's name's Mr. Edward Marston, and he's a hactor,' said 
cherry-ribbons, flurried and excited with her continuous journey- 
ings to the door. ' That's all I know, and he ain't at home now, 
so you can't see him.' 

With which exhaustive information cherry- ribbons banged the 
door to, and bounced angrily into her easy chair, to enjoy her 
cup of tea and once more to take up the thread of that marvel- 
lous serial, ' A Servant To-day and a Duchess To-morrow,' which 
was running with brilliant success from week to week through 
the pages of the Housemaids of Merry England, a journal of 
fiction and fashion. 

It was, however, from this scant information that the nobility, 
gentry, and tradespeople of Camden Road and its vicinity 
gradually became aware that Eden Villa was now the residence 
of Mr. Edward Marston, an actor — probably a provincial actor, 
for his name was unknown to Camden Town in connexion with 
the London boards. 

Not being a baker or a milkman intent upon securing a new 
customer, but simply a veracious chronicler, intent upon making 
the story of certain people's lives as clear as possible to the 
reader, I am quite independent of cherry-ribbons ; so, without 
disturbing her, I will open the front door with my latch-key and 
usher you straight into the presence of the new tenant. 

The white curtains have been up three days when we pay our 
visit in the early morning. 

This is the breakfast-room on the ground floor. You will 
observe that the French windows open on to the lawn. The 
gentleman toying with his toast and sipping his tea leisurely you 
met one rainy night in the early part of this story. 

He is a very different looking person now. His clothes are 
faultlessly cut, his hair is neatly arranged, his moustache is 
nicely trimmed, and his beard and whiskers have been shaved 
off. The strange, wild look is gone, and you see only a good- 
looking, well-built gentleman of ftve-and-thirty, who has nothing 
much to trouble him, unless a nice house be a trouble (it is, some- 
times, I'm afraid), and who should certainly, if appearances go 
for anything, mix in good society and have a balance at his 
banker'3. 

That he is an actor we know from cherry-ribbons, and that 
accounts for there being in a little room upstairs a complete 
actor's wardrobe — dresses, wigs, beards, and moustaches, and all 
the materials for ' making up.' 

But before he blossomed into a member of that profession 
which to-day takes high rank among the arts, and passes its 



70 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS 

followers into tbe saloons of the wealthy and the great, and 
gives them an income for which all but the most favoured in 
other professions may sigh in vain, but which once only entitled 
its disciple to take rank as a rogue and a vagabond, what was he ? 

An author must necessarily play the part of chorus while the 
action of his drama requires that he and not his characters should 
speak. It is not a pretty tune to which the chorus of Edward 
Marston's life can be delivered. 

Edward Marston's father gave his son a good education, and 
he gave him little else. He was a gentleman at the outset of 
his career, was Marston pere, and an adventurer at the close. He 
dissipated a fortune in reckless extravagance, broke his wife's 
heart by careless cruelty- and systematic neglect, and, having 
brought up his son in an atmosphere of plenty, ran away from 
his creditors just as that son was twenty-one, and left him to 
shift for himself and make what he could by his brains and out 
of the acquaintances which he had made in his butterfly days. 

Given a fair start, compelled from the outset to work for his 
living, young Marston might have settled down into a respect- 
able citizen. But the whole surroundings of his life had unfitted 
him for the steady and laborious pursuit of wealth. He had 
expensive habits and tastes, a love of luxury which he was accus- 
tomed to gratify without thought of the cost, and he had never 
been brought within the range of those high moral influences 
which force the inclinations under some kind of control. 

His home life had been unhappy. With an ailing and broken- 
spirited mother — a woman too weak-minded to do anything but 
what she did, pine away and die— with a father who openly 
violated the first principles of social morality, young Marston 
early learned to be what the world calls ' a smart fellow.' 

He had no sisters. Had even this influence been brought to 
bear upon him he might have grown up differently. The men 
who have had sisters are generally the best. The constant pre- 
sence of womanhood in a house acts as a charm. Boys who 
grow up among boys, are always inferior to their fellows in 
manners, in tact, and, as far as the world knows, in their standard 
of morality. It is difficult to overrate the beneficial influence 
which^isters exercise over their brothers in an English household. 

Edward Marston, deprived of everything which could appeal 
to his better self, drifted into a swift current of evil. His 
associates were young men of wealth and position, and he imi- 
tated their tastes at any cost. When his father went away to 
America he found himself utterly stranded, with nothing but 
his vices. He lived on them. He got mixed up with a fast set 
of young men, and in pursuit of pleasure made doubtful friend- 
ships. It was easy to foretell the end. 

He had no money ; he had therefore to get it from those who 
had. Such men are met in the largest quantities on racecourses, 
in billiard-rooms, and gambling-saloons. These places were tbe 



THE MASTER OF EDEN VILLA. 71 

haunts of young Marston, and fate flung him into close com- 
panionship with well-dressed rogues and well-dressed fools. 

Among his ' set ' were Oliver Birnie, a good-natured devil- 
may-care medical student, clever enough, but fond of more 
dissipation than he could get out of the two hundred a year his 
father, a small country practitioner, allowed him, and Gurtb 
Egerton, a young man much after his own heart, whose only 
living relative was a wealthy cousin, a man of flve-and-thirty. 

This latter was Ralph Egerton, a man who might have been 
anything he chose, but who, inheriting a large fortune, plunged 
into dissipation and drank to the verge of madness. In his sober 
moments he was a good fellow; drunk he was a quarrelsome 
rowdy, and an easy prey to the young sharks who swarmed about 
him. Gurth and he were pretty constant companions, but they 
quarrelled fearfully. Gurth resented Ralph's wealth, yet he 
lived on him. Gurth brought him to the dens, and Marston 
helped to pluck him. 

They let Ralph fancy himself a little king of Bohemia ; they 
ate his dinners and drank his wine, and when he was drunk 
enough they took him to gambling hells and cheated him. 

A favourite haunt with them all was Josh Heckett's. Heckett 
did many queer things for a living. Among others he kept a 
betting office in Soho, and had a little room where a select few 
of his customers played roulette or any game they chose. 

It was in this room that the event happened with which the 
reader is already well acquainted. It was just after that that 
young Marston disappeared from the scene and went to America 
— to his father, he said — but whatever was his real motive, it 
was known only to himself. 

Leading the life he did, he had yet found time to fall in love 
with a beautiful girl who had returned his affection. 

The Adrians had been neighbours in his father's best days, and 
Edward and Ruth had been boy and girl sweethearts. No harm 
was known of the Marstons then. They lived in a good house, 
kept servants, and ostensibly were gentlepeople. Edward visited 
at the house, Mr. and Mrs. Adrian liked him, and it was tacitly 
understood that the young people were in love. 

The one pure passion of Edward Marston's life was his love 
for Ruth Adrian. If anything could have sobered and steadied 
him it would have been her influence. Unhappily, at the very 
time that influence was most needed, an event happened which 
severed their lives for ever. 

The elder Marston ran away from his creditors, some very 
peculiar financial transactions came to light, and when Mr. 
Adrian, awakened to the danger of the situation, made inquiries, 
he found that the son was leading an evil life, and was the con- 
stant companion of gentlemanly blacklegs. 

The next time Edward called at the Adrians' he was forbidden 
the house. Ruth wrote him a noble, womanly letter, returned 



72 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

his presents, and declared that it broke her heart to give him up, 
but that hor duty to herself and to those dearest to her demanded 
it. She should never love anyone else and never forget him. 
She would pray God that he might yet lead a better life, 
and some day call a pure and honest woman wife. The girl's 
tears fell fast and thick as she wrote. She thought she was 
doing her duty. Reared in a school of morality deeply tinged 
with religious fervour, Ruth saw no other way out of the diffi- 
culty. It seemed to her almost a sin to have loved a bad man. 
The love she could not crush, but the man she would look upon 
no more. 

This breaking down of the last barrier between himself and 
utter recklessness happened immediately after Ralph Egerton's 
murder — for murder all concerned firmly believed it to be. Ruth 
Adrian was the last link that bound him to respectability. That 
link snapped and he was free — free to float out into the ocean of 
wickedness, and sink or swim as luck determined. 

He went to America and led a life of adventure. He utilized 
his talents in a big field, but an overrun one. The 'smart man' 
is a type of American society, and a redundant type. Marston 
may have prospered at one period, but he must have come to an 
evil time at last, for certain it is that he returned to England 
almost penniless, and on the night he met Birnie outside the 
Blue Pigeons he was actually without a copper. 

That meeting was the turning point in his career. It placed 
a little capital at his disposal, and capital is the one thing needed 
to make a fair start in anything in this country. 

Marston had learned much in America, and he saw a way to 
utilize his experience. 

High-art crime has been developed rapidly in these latter days. 
Edward Marston was one of its pioneers. He brought to the 
'business ' in which he embarked education, skill, ingenuity, and 
a knowledge of the world. 

As he sits this morning in his newly furnished villa in the 
Camden Road his plans are formed, his capital is invested, he is 
at the head of an obedient and well-organized staff, and he is 
about to embark on the perilous and daring enterprise. His 
capital is the £500 Birnie had repaid him. He is under an 
obligation to no one for that. To his staff we shall in due time 
be introduced, and through the varying stages of his brilliant 
enterprise we shall accompany him. 

He has finished his breakfast. He rings the bell, and cherry- 
ribbons enters and clears away. He has so much to see to and 
so much to think of this morning, that he will not want to be 
interrupted, and it is perfectly certain that he will have a strong 
objection to being overlooked. 

Under these circumstances, having satisfied our curiosity as to 
his antecedents and present position, it will perhaps be as well 
if we take our departure and creep out of Eden Villa as quietly 
as we entered it. 



JABEZ SEES THE GHOST. 73 



CHAPTER XIV 

JABEZ SEES THE GHOST. 

It was Miss Duck's birthday — which birthday let us not be un- 
gallant enough to inquire. Georgina herself confessed to thirty- 
three, but Jabez had heard her confess to quite that amount of 
years on many previous anniversaries when there had been no 
company present ; he wisely held his tongue, and concluded 
that Georgina had been adding up with the trifling omission of 
a ten. 

It was quite a festive occasion this evening at the little house 
at Dalston. Miss Jackson from over the way was invited, and so 
was her young brother ; Bess and George were of the party, and 
Jabez came home an hour earlier in order to assist Georgina in 
doing the honours. 

Tea was over and cleared away, and in its place there stood 
upon the table a plate of biscuits, a decanter of port, a decanter 
of sherry, and a plate of oranges cut into quarters. 

Miss Jackson, between sundry fits of weeping, had confided 
to Bess that birthdays always made her miserable ; and Miss 
Jackson's brother, supremely uncomfortable in a collar that 
would keep coming unbuttoned, sat on the edge of a chair and 
blushed crimson every time anyone looked at him. 

Miss Jackson's brother was a nervous youth of nineteen, who 
wrote sonnets to Venus and odes to Diana of the most im- 
passioned order, but could not look a mortal female in the face 
without going the colour of a boiled lobster. 

After tea he wriggled on the edge of his chair, and divided 
his time between rebuttoning his collar and pretending to be 
deeply interested in the pattern of the carpet. 

' Georgina dear,' said Miss Jackson, during a pause in the 
conversation, ' how sad it is to think that in the midst of this 
festivity ' — Miss Jackson glanced at the cut oranges and sweet 
biscuits — ' we are really celebrating the close of another year of 
your dear life.' 

' Lor, Carry, don't !' said Georgina. ' You give one the 
creeps.' 

' Alas !' sighed Carry, ' we are all one year nearer the grave 
than we were a year ago.' 

Her eyes filled with tears, and she mopped them with her 
pockethandkerchief. 

' That's one way of looking at it, certainly,' exclaimed Jabez, 
filling the glasses and handing them round. ' Have a glass of 
port ?' 

' Thank you,' said Miss Jackson ; and clutching a glass she 
dropped a tear into it, and tossed it off. 

Miss Jackson's brother also took a glass with a trembling 



74 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

hand, and got it to his lips after spilling half of it down his 
white waistcoat, and turning the colour of the liquid itself in 
his agony, 

' Now let's be jolly,' exclamed Jabez, shining benignantly on 
everybody. ' Here's Georgina's jolly good health, and a many 
of 'em.' 

Bess and George duly honoured the sentiment, and Georgina 
bowed gracefully to everybody, including Miss Jackson's brother, 
who observed the salutation just as he was drinking, and, swal- 
lowing his wine in a hurry in order to bow politely, let it all go 
the wrong way, and choked and coughed for a good five minutes, 
crowning his misfortunes, in the confusion which seized him in 
consequence, by wiping his brow with the antimacassar instead 
of his pocket-handkerchief. 

Gradually the little company settled into groups. Miss Jack- 
son, Bess, and Miss Duck plunged into trivialities about Mrs. 
Jones's baby next door, Mrs. Brown's bad husband, the price of 
provisions, and the state of the weather ; Miss Jackson's brother 
made a group by himself in a far corner with an album, over 
which he bent with the earnestness of a student, and looked at 
the portraits upside down for a quarter of an hour without 
knowing it ; and Jabez and George started a little conversation 
which we are ungallant enough to imagine will be of more in- 
terest to the reader than Miss Jackson's jeremiads, Bess's 
mechanical ' Yeses ' and 'Noes,' or Miss Duck's choice morsels of 
local gossip. 

' And so you really like your new place. Well, I'm glad of 
that,' said Mr. Duck. ' Good places ain't easy found in the City.' 

' Mine's a capital place, I assure you,' answered George. 
' There's really very little to do.' 

' Let's see, Smith & Co.'s the firm, isn't it ? What are they ?' 
asked Jabez, presently. 

1 1 don't know, exactly.' 

' Where are their offices ?' 

' Well,' said George, ' they have so many.' 

' Many offices ! What do you mean ?' 

' Why, you see, I'm not attached to any office. One week I 
go to their'office in Fenchurch Street, and perhaps the next I'm 
at Little Britain. This week I'm on at the office in the 
Borough.' 

' Do you have many customers come in ?' 

' No. Now and then a gentleman comes to see the manager — 
that's all.' 

' It's a queer situation, anyway,' said Jabez. ' I wonder what 
they can be ?' 

' I don't know,' answered George ; ' but the manager is a most 
respectable old gentleman, and very kind, and I get my money 
to the minute.' 

Jabez registered a mental note to make some inquiries about 



JABEZ SEES THE GHOST 75 

the firm of Smith & Co., who had so many offices. And then 
the conversation turned upon Mr. Jabez's own line of business. 

' We see some rum affairs in the law,' he said, after giving 
George an idea of the grandeur of his firm. ' We've a case now 
that's a romance in itself.' 

' A romance !' exclaimed Miss Jackson. ' Oh, I dote on 
romances, they end so sadly. I had my romance once.' 

Again the big round eyes filled with tears, and Miss Jackson 
was about to give way, when Georgina called her a goose, and 
Jabez went on with his narrative to a larger audience, for the 
local gossip was exhausted. 

' There is a bit of sadness about this romance, it's true,' said 
Mr. Duck, ' because there's a death in it.' 

Miss Jackson got her handkerchief ready. 

' It's the Egerton case I mean. You've seen the advertise- 
ment in the newspapers asking for proof of Mr. Gurth Egerton's 
death ? Well, my firm put that in. We're solicitors to the 
gent. There's no doubt he was drowned in the Bon Espoir. 
But the most curious part of it is the housekeeper, Mrs. Turvey ' 
— Georgina turned up her nose here, and Miss Jackson sighed 
a sigh of sympathy with her friend's trouble. ' The house- 
keeper, Mrs. Turvey, and her little girl distinctly saw an exact 
counterpart of Gurth Egerton at his own front door some time 
after the news of the wreck reached England.' 

' A ghost !' shrieked Miss Jackson ; ' don't say it was a ghost.' 

' Well, I don't know what else it could have been unless it was 
the drowned man himself ; and if it was him, why should he 
open his front door and go away again ? Why shouldn't he 
have said, " Mrs. Turvey, light the fire in my bed-room and air 
my nightshirt." ' 

Miss Jackson hid her face, and Georgina exclaimed, 'Jabez!' 
Miss Jackson's brother buried his head in the album. 

' I beg your pardon, ladies,' said Mr. Duck, ' for alluding to 
details, but in the law we are particular about details. Well, 
instead of behaving as a live man would, he doesn't come in, and 
nothing more is heard of him. His friend, Dr. Birnie, is 
executor to his will, and inherits a good lump of his property ; 
but Birnie can't touch a penny till we can prove the death of 
the man who came to his own front door after he was drowned.' 

' But,' exclaimed George, ' surely if he was drowned you can 
prove it.' 

' Not easily, except by supposition. Some people left the ship 
before she sank. They all swear the passenger known as 
Egerton was not in either of the boats. They were all picked 
up and are accounted for — every soul in the boats.' 

' Then Mr. Egerton must be dead,' said Miss Georgina. 

Mr. Duck smiled. 

' Of course he is, my dear, but not in the eyes of the law. 
It's an unfortunate circumstance that he wasn't killed in a 



76 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

railway accident, or burned in a theatre, or blown up by an 
explosion of gas, because then we might have found a button or 
a coat-tail or something to swear by. You see in the present 
unsatisfactory state of the case there are people to whom money 
is left who can't touch it.' 

Miss Georgina shot an arrow. 

1 There's Mrs. Turvey, the housekeeper, has five hundred 
pounds, for instance.' 

' Yes, my dear, that estimable lady has, or rather will have, 
five hundred pounds.' 

' 1 dare say some old fool will be after her directly that gets 
known,' said Miss Georgina, with a look at Miss Jackson. 

Jabez pretended not to hear, but, turning to George, ad- 
dressed his conversation specially to him. 

It was a stormy evening, and the clouds had been gathering 
threateningly in the sky, with an indication of more violent 
tempest yet to come. 

Just as Jabez was minutely describing the appearance of the 
ghost as seen by Mrs. Turvey, a terrific peal of thunder crashed 
through the stillness of the night, and vivid flashes of lightning 
played about the room. 

With a wild shriek Miss Georgina sprang to her feet. 

She was the most abject coward in a thunderstorm. 

Miss Jackson endeavoured to calm her. 

' Oh, Carry, let me go — let me go,' she cried ; ' lead me to the 
coal-cellar.' 

The company endeavoured to soothe her fears. It wasn't 
forked lightning, they assured her. There was no danger. 

' Cover the glasses over, Jabez,' moaned Georgina, ' and open 
the windows, and set the doors ajar, and see there are no knives 
about. Oh !' Another terrific peal of thunder wrung this last 
interjection from Miss Duck. She darted out of the room in a 
state of collapse, and, seizing a chair, rushed into the coal-cellar 
with it, and there awaited the abatement of the storm. 

Jabez explained that his sister was very frightened of light- 
ning, and he hoped the company would excuse her. She always 
shut herself in the coal-cellar during a thunderstorm. 

'Poor thing!' sighed Miss Jackson. 'Spending her birthday 
in the coal-cellar ! Oh, my poor friend !' 

Miss Jackson, imagining that a tear ought to be trickling down 
ber nose, was about to produce her handkerchief and wipe it 
away, when her brother created a diversion which cast the cruel 
situation of Miss Duck into temporary oblivion. 

The windows had been flung open to let a current of air 
through the room and give the lightning egress, and Miss Jack- 
son's brother was surveying the heavens and mentally com- 
posing an ode to Jupiter, when his attention was attracted by a 
figure on the opposite side of the road. 

Miss Jackson's brother had been an attentive listener to the 



JABEZ SEES THE GHOST. 77 

ghost story and Jabez's description of the ghost's features, and 
great, therefore, was his horror at beholding, when the lightning 
lit the figure up, an exact counterpart of the ghost that appeared 
to Mrs. Turvey. 

'Lo-o-o-k there!' he stammered. 'Wh-ha-t's th-that ?' 

Jabez followed the direction of the youth's trembling finger, 
and then, with a vigorous ' Well, I'm blest !' darted into the hall, 
seized his hat and rushed across the road. 

The figure turned and fled. 

Jabez pursued it. 

Miss Jackson had rushed down-stairs to whisper through the 
keyhole of the coal-cellar that a ghost had come to wish 
Georgina many happy returns of the day, and that Jabez was 
pursuing it. 

Georgina came out of the coal-cellar at once. 

The ghost might come there. 

The storm had abated, and she ventured to join George and 
Bess and Miss Jackson's brother at the open window. 

The ghost and Jabez were out of sight. 

In about five minutes one of them returned panting and out 
of breath. It was Jabez. 

He came into the room looking so white that Miss Jackson 
screamed. 

' Well, what about the ghost ?' said George, quite bravely, 
smiling at Bess, upon whom the example of the other ladies 
seemed likely to have an effect. 

' I'm done,' answered Jabez, dropping into a chair, and vio- 
lently polishing his shiny head with his pocket-handkerchief till 
the gas globes were reflected in it ; ' I'm done. It's the rummest 
thing I ever knew.' 

' But you never knew a ghost before, did you ?' asked George, 
keeping up a smile, meant to be reassuring. 

' Ghost be blowed !' exclaimed Mr. Jabez, jumping up. ' It's 
no ghost. It's Gurth Egerton himself.' 



CHAPTER XV. 

MR. GURTH EGERTON COMES TO LIFE. 

Gurth Egerton's first feeling when saved from the wreck of 
the Bon Espoir was one of intense thankfulness that his life had 
been spared. But as the fearful danger to which he had been 
exposed receded, he began to contemplate the past less and the 
future considerably more. 

The most terrible situations are those which fade most rapidly 
from the mind. A man will remember going to the dentist's to 
have a tooth drawn long after he has forgotten a surgical opera- 
tion in which his life was at stake. There is nothing so soon 



78 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

forgotten by the ordinary mind as death. Many men would 
remember being best man at a wedding far more distinctly than 
being chief mourner at a funeral. 

So it was with Gurth Egerton. 

After the first few days on board the Diana, his marvellous 
escape seemed a trifling incident in his career, and his whole 
thinking capacity was exercised in the solution of this difficulty 
— what should he do when he got to England ? 

The theory that murderers are always haunted by remorse is 
an absurd one. Murderers are in many instances very ordinary 
persons. They wash their hands, forget their crime, and tread 
their path in life with firm footsteps. A murderer may go to 
the play, entertain his friends at dinner, eat strawberries and 
cream, and cry when his favourite dog dies. ' Once a murderer 
always a murderer,' is not a proverb in any language. It is 
most probable that the authors of the undiscovered crimes of 
recent years are now considered very respectable members of 
society. For all we know they may pay their debts with 
regularity, subscribe to school treats, help old ladies over cross- 
ings, and live in houses which are distinguished for the whitest 
window-curtains and cleanest doorsteps. They may sleep 
soundly, digest their food, and shiver with indignation when a 
ruffianl) labourer is charged with assaulting his wife. Murders 
are committed, as a rule, under exceptional circumstances, and a 
murderer may look back upon ' his little misfortune ' with occa- 
sional regret, but it is doubtful if ever he felt the least desire to 
give himself up or to exchange his liberty for a prison cell. 

There is, however, a difference in murders. Some people are 
so anxious to acquire the title that they voluntarily accuse them- 
selves of crimes of which they are innocent. Others give them- 
selves up with a romantic story about their conscience having 
compelled them to do so. In most of these instances, if it is a 
man he has been drinking hard, and if it is a woman she is 
hysterical. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and, as 
long as a murderer's mind is well balanced, he will bury his 
crime as deep as possible and forget it as soon as he can. 

The idea that murderers are haunted for ever by the memory 
of their guilt is as fallacious as the smug proverb that ' Murder 
will out.' For one murder that comes to light there are ten 
that remain in eternal darkness. 

It is time, however, to leave murderers in general to their 
peaceful enjoyments, and return to Mr. Gurth Egerton, the 
rescued passenger of the Bon Espoir, and to say something of 
his antecedents. 

His uncle, Kalph's father, had been a man who late in life 
came into enormous wealth— a man who, having led a life of 
extravagance in his youth, and breathed an atmosphere of debt 
and difficulty, found himself, when the capacity for enjoyment 
was gone, the possessor of a vast fortune. 



MR. GURTH EGERTON COMES TO LIFE. 79 

The old man's whole nature seemed changed with his circum- 
stances. He had squandered when he was poor ; he pinched now 
ho was rich. He had been generous when he was paying sixty 
per cent, for cash ; he was mean to a degree now he had thou- 
sands invested in good security. He shut himself up in one of 
his houses, furnishing only three rooms, and cried over the 
expense of having a doctor to keep him alive. He quarrelled 
fiercely with his only son, Ralph, grudged him the paltry allow- 
ance which in his hard-up days he had cheerfully paid, and 
admitted only one person to his confidence. 

That person was his nephew Gurth, his dead brother's son. 
He had been fearful that Gurth would come upon him for 
assistance, or would expect a gift. Gurth did nothing of the 
sort, and the old man could have hugged him. But Gurth's 
good qualities were positive as well as negative. Gurth was in 
a fast set of young spendthrifts, and rich heirs and minors, who 
paid ninety per cent, for money, and he brought the old man 
their bills, and always brought him the best. 

No one knew where Gurth got the money. ' His friend in the 
City ' was a mystery to all the set. He didn't choose to say it 
was his uncle. Gurth made money out of the transactions, too, 
and he was useful in advising the old miser when to sue for his 
money and when to renew, for he was in the confidence of his 
reckless companions, and they thought him a jolly good fellow 
to get their paper melted for them. 

Old Ralph always promised Gurth to remember him in his 
will, and he did so after his own fashion. 

He left all he possessed to his only son for life, and on his 
death without issue the property was to pass to G urth. The 
old miser may have had some idea that by leaving it this way 
Gurth would try to prevent Ralph squandering his fortune — 
that it would make him a sort of custodian of the hoarded 
wealth he loved. 

Gurth, who had counted upon a thumping legacy, was bit- 
terly disappointed, and conceived a violent dislike to his cousin. 
He was, however, too shrewd to show it openly. 

He looked the situation in the face, and convinced himself 
that Ralph's was a short life. Ralph inherited the family fail- 
ings, and drink and dissipation had already wrecked a vigorous 
constitution. 

' Ralph Egerton will kill himself in a year, at the rate he's 
going on,' said people ; and, seeing that the young man was 
already on the verge of delirium tremens, their prophecy was 
reasonable. 

Gurth was satisfied on the whole when he thought matters 
out. He was the constant companion of his cousin, and kept 
him well surrounded with the means of shortening his career. 

He introduced him to the gambling den of Josh Heckelt, 
and shared in the plunder. He was only drawing on account — 



8o ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

that was his idea. If Ralph Egerton was to lose money, his 
money, what could be fairer than that he should lose it to 
him? 

It was after his introduction to the Soho establishment that a 
great change came over Ralph. Gurth detected it, sought the 
cause, and found it. 

Gertie Heckett, Josh's pretty daughter, was at the bottom 
of it. 

Gurth fancied that it was a vulgar amour, and nothing more. 
lie let it run its course, seeing in it only one more link in the 
chain that bound Ralph Egerton to evil company. 

But one day Ralph, who had been sober for a month, broke 
out badly, and grew quarrelsome. 

Gurth kept his temper and refused to quarrel. It didn't 
suit him to part company with Ralph. One day he came sud- 
denly upon Gertie at Ralph's house in St. John's Wood. The 
girl was coming out white-faced and red-eyed as Gurth went 
in. He questioned the servant. 

The young woman had come there in great trouble, and said 
she must see Mr. Egerton at once. Mr. Egerton had seen her, 
and there had been high words. She had gone away crying. 
That was all the servant could say. 

That afternoon Gurth ' tapped ' Ralph on the subject, and 
Ralph resented it. He was still under the influence of a long 
drinking bout, and Ms tongue was unguarded. In his rage he 
taunted Gurth with hanging about and waiting for him to die, 
that he might have his money. 

' You're murdering me, you devil !' he shouted, his face dis- 
torted with passion. ' You're murdering me in your slimy 
serpent way, you know you are ! You want me to drink myself 
to death, don't you ? But I'll do you yet, my fine scheming 
gentleman.' 

' You're drunk,' answered Gurth, biting his lip, ' or you 
wouldn't speak to me like that.' 

' I'm sober enough to tear the mask from your ugly face !' 
shouted Ralph ; ' and you can retire from busness. Your game's 
up. You'll never have a penny of my money, you sneak — not a 
penny !' 

' What do you mean ?' said Gurth, hoarsely. 

' I mean that I have played a trump card, and that you can 
spare yourself any further trouble on my behalf, Mr. Gurth 
Egerton. I'm married !' 

' You lie, you drunken fool !' cried Gurth, springing up and 
seizing him by the arm. 

Ralph shook him off. 

' Touch me again,' he shouted, ' and I'll have you kicked out 
of the house, you dirty adventurer ! Gertie put me up to your 
tricks. Gertie's a good girl, and I've married Gertie. There, 
now ! how do you like it V 



MR. GURTH EGERTON COMES TO LTFE. 81 

For a moment Gurth stood staring in blank surprise at the 
drunken man. Was this truth, or was it a tipsy boast ? With a 
supreme effort he conquered his anger, and sat down quietly 
opposite his cousin. 

' I congratulate you, Ralph,' he said ; ' you might have done 
much worse.' 

' Damn your compliments !' muttered Ralph, reaching across 
to the brandy bottle, and pouring out half a tumblerful. ' Keep 
em ! I married Gertie to settle your hash. We've been married 
six months, and to-morrow I'm going to make it public. She's 
a jolly good girl,' he added, with a maudlin softness in his voice, 
' and it's my duty to let her position be known. She's my law- 
ful wife, Gurth Egerton, and you can say good-bye to my money, 
old fellow. Better luck next time.' 

With which compliment Ralph tossed off the brandy, and 
rolled his eyes about more wildly than ever. 

Gurth Egerton bit his lip and turned his face away lest 
Ralph should see how white it was. 

He was convinced that the drunkard spoke the truth, and he 
saw that his hopes were shattered. Ralph was married, and ho 
would have children. Much in Gertie's conduct lately was 
clear as the noon to him now, and he understood why lately she 
had kept out of the way when the men were about. 

His worst fears were realized. Ralph Egerton had swept 
fortune from him just as it seemed within his grasp. 

The pair sat in silence for full five minutes. In those five 
minutes a daring scheme had matured itself in the brain of the 
one. 

' Ralph, old boy,' said Gurth, ' shake hands. I'm sorry we've 
quarrelled. If I can do anything to help you and Gertie I will. 
It is rough on me, I own, but you've a perfect right to do as you 
like, and I shall accept my fate quietly. Let's have a drink and 
shake hands.' 

Gurth poured out some brandy— a little for himself, nearly a 
tumblerful for Ralph. 

' Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Egerton,' said Gurth, raising his glass 
and sipping the contents. 

'Gertie—God bless her!' said Ralph, pouring half the raw 
liquor down his throat. 

He put the glass down and came across to Gurth. 

' Gurth, my boy,' he said, with a foolish smile, ' I forgive you. 
I was jolly rude just now, wasn't I ? God bless you !' 

And thereupon Ralph grew quite confidential, and shook 
hands over and over again with his cousin ; and Gurth learned 
that the marriage was a secret as yet, that Josh didn't know 
anything about it, and that Ralph had the certificate among his 
papers upstairs. 

That night Ralph was at Heckett's, and a quarrel arose over 
the cards. Shortly afterwards he was buried, on the certificate 

6 



82 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

of Dr. Oliver Birnie, and his fortune passed into the hands of 
Gurth Egerton, in accordance with the old miser's will ; for 
Gertie lay out of her mind and dying slowly, and no one but 

Gurth himself knew of the marriage certificate. 

o o # & s 

Gurth Egerton, recovering rapidly under the kind surgeon's 
care from the illness which his shipwreck and long immersion 
had caused, sat on the deck of the Diana and thought out his 
plans for the future. 

The vessel was bound- for Baltimore, but he would take the 
first ship and go home again. What should he do when he landed 
in England ? He had been travelling for years, leaving his affairs 
to be managed by his friend, Birnie. He was haunted by a con- 
stant terror, not that his crime would come to light, but that he 
might lose the result of it. 

On the last afternoon he spent with Ralph Egerton, the dipso- 
maniac had boasted of having the marriage certificate in his own 
keeping. That certificate Gurth had never been able to find among 
the papers of which he had taken possession. 

He had furnished the house which the old miser had occupied 
in the street off Russell Square and carried everything there, 
leaving Birnie to live at Ralphs villa at St. John's Wood. But, 
though he found hundreds of documents relating to the affairs of 
the deceased, there was no sign of the paper he so particularly 
wished to destroy. 

He felt sure that the marriage had been performed before a 
registrar, and he could easily have ascertained where, but that 
would have been a dangerous step. It was to his interest that 
no attention should be attracted to the subject by inquiries 
about it. 

There was nothing to connect him specially with the death 
of his cousin. Every one present on the occasion was equally 
liable to suspicion, and the only man who might have spoken, 
perhaps, had he liked, was bound in his own interest to hold 
his peace. 

Birnie had shown him the false certificate of death which he 
had signed to avoid scandal, and it had not been a bad day's work 
for the young doctor. 

From that moment, without a word passing between them, it 
had been understood that Birnie lived rent-free, and had an 
allowance of so much a year out of the estate. To do him jus- 
tice, Birnie had not been extortionate, and Gurth himself mar- 
velled occasionally that he did not make a freer use of the power 
he undoubtedly possessed. 

He had left Birnie not only manager of his affairs during his 
absence, but executor in case of his death. With the exception 
of a legacy of £500 to the housekeeper, Mrs. Turvey, and £2,000 
to Birnie, the whole of the property was left, in the event of his 
death without issue, to the nearest surviving relative of Ralph 



MR. GURTH EGERTON COMES TO LIFE. 83 

Egerton. Nothing, however, was to be touched till the anni- 
versary of his death, and on that day a sealed letter was to be 
opened by his solicitors. 

In this letter Gurth set forth the fact that he had heard a 
rumour that Ralph had been married. He left it to be inferred 
that had the wife or child, if there was one, at any time lodged 
a claim, he should instantly have recognised it, but no wife or 
child had ever come forward. He charged his executors to make 
diligent inquiry, and ascertain who was the nearest living rela- 
tive of his late cousin. 

This was a kind of death-bed repentance. Gurth felt con- 
scious that the record of the marriage would be advertised for, 
and, the books being searched, would be found, and then the 
property he had enjoyed during his lifetime would pass to the 
rightful owner. 

That was the condition of affairs when he left England ; but 
now a change had come. He had confessed to the murder of 
his cousin, and, as he had been picked up, so the clergyman 
who had received his confession might have been picked up. 
Hurrying to England there might be a ship with the clergy- 
man on board. It might, for all he knew, be an ocean race 
between accuser and accused. Had he not firmly believed that 
his fate was certain, he would have kept his secret. He had 
regretted his rashness five minutes afterwards, but it was too 
late. 

Then came the wreck, and he knew no more till he opened his 
eyes on board the Diana. 

His presence of mind, which had deserted him in the hour of 
danger, had returned in the hour of safety. 

He had given his name as George Englehardt when asked by 
the ship authorities. At any rate, it should be imagined that 
Gurth Egerton had perished until it was certain that his fellow- 
passenger, the clergyman, was lost. 

He took the first ship from Baltimore, and as he neared 
England his plans were complete. He would let it be believed 
he was drowned until all chance of his accuser turning up had 
vanished. 

So he came to London, and steadily avoided for a time all 
places where he was likely to be recognized. 

But one night, impelled by curiosity to see his house, he crept 
past it in the dark. 

Standing in the shadow of the opposite side, he saw Jabez 
Duck come out. What was Grigg and. Limpet's clerk doing there 
at that time of night ? 

Shortly afterwards he saw what he supposed to be a lady bring 
home a little girl he had never seen before. A strange fear took 
possession of him. Knowing what he knew, he jumped to the 
conclusion that the certificate had been found during his absence, 

6-2 



84 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

that Heckett had been communicated with, and that the child 
was the child of Ralph's dead wife. 

That G-rigg and Limpet's solicitor and this little girl should be 
at the house alarmed him. As ' the wicked flee when none pur- 
sueth,' so do the guilty always connect the most trifling circum- 
stances with the discovery they most dread. 

Presently he noticed that the door was ajar, and he crept up 
and peered in. Something might, perhaps, give him an idea of 
who the present occupants were. 

At that moment the child came into the hall and saw his face. 
Her shriek of 'Aunty !' brought up Mrs. Turvey, and the result 
was that G-urth Egerton glided rapidly away, satisfied on two 
points — that the child was only his housekeeper's niece, and that 
he was evidently supposed to have been drowned in the Bon 
Espoir, and was now a full-blown ghost. 

Soon after that he saw the advertisements for proofs of his 
death in the papers, and also a request that ' Mr. George Engle- 
hirdt,' the rescued passenger, would call on Messrs. G-rigg and 
Limpet. 

Evidently the ghost story had been put about, and there was a 
difficulty in deciding that his property could be dealt with. 

He had never intended that it should be. Long before the 
time when a penny could be touched or anything be sold, he 
would take his place in society again, with a marvellous tale, if 
necessary, of his adventures and hairbreadth escapes. 

He wanted to wait until he was quite certain that the clergyman 
of the Bon Espob- had not been rescued, and then, all fear being 
over, the sea should give up her dead. 

His time of concealment was, however, considerably shortened 
by an accident. 

Standing under a doorway one evening to escape a violent 
storm, he heard a cry from the opposite side, and the next 
moment he saw Grigg and Limpet's clerk hurrying towards him. 

Obeying his first impulse, he ran away ; but Jabez caught him 
up and seized him by the arm. 

Then he felt that all concealment was at an end. 

' Hulloh, Duck, how are you ?' he said quietly, as if nothing 
had happened. ' I thought you were a garrotter.' 

Jabez stood looking at him, the picture of blank amazement. 

' Mr. Egerton,' he stammered, ' I ' 

Cut the ghost interrupted him curtly : 

' I'm in a hurry now. Tell Grigg and Limpet I'll call on them 
to-morrow.' 

And off went Mr. Egerton, leaving Jabez to go home through 
the pouring rain with a piece of information which astonished 
the little birthday party considerably, and brought Miss Geor- 
gina out of the coal-cellar long before the thunderstorm had 
subsided. 



LIMPET, JUNIOR^ TRANSACTS BUSINESS. 85 
CHAPTER XVI. 

LIMPET, JUNIOR, TRANSACTS SOME BUSINESS. 

Messus. Geigg & Limpet were duly informed of Mr. Gurth 
Egerton's mysterious resurrection, by their faithful clerk, and 
sat in state all the morning, ready to receive their adventurous 
and eccentric client. 

Both Giigg and Limpet were anxious to have the mystery of 
his laziness in coming to life explained, and had been puzzling 
their brains to account for it. Yet when, shortly after noon, 
Mr. Gurth Egerton was announced as having entered the clerks' 
office, there was no departure from the usual ceremony. 

' Say we are engaged, and show Mr. Egerton into room B,' 
said Mr. Limpet. 

Then Grigg pulled out his watch, while Limpet read the 
Times : 

' Time ?' said Grigg, presently. 

' How long has he waited ?' asked Limpet. 

' Ten minutes,' answered Grigg. 

' Give him another two, then,' said Limpet, as though Mr. 
Gurth Egerton were an egg, and it was a question of how long 
he should be boiled. 

When the twelve minutes were up Limpet rang a bell, and 
the clerk went in search of Mr. Egerton, and bowed him into 
the presence of the firm. 

Mr. Egerton did not choose to enter into details with his 
solicitors, Grigg & Limpet, who had prepared themselves for a 
three-volume novel, and were disappointed when they found their 
client's story was a dry summary, which would have done credit 
to the matter-of-fact columns of the Times. Mr. Egerton did 
not even throw in a little ' picturesque reporting.' He had been 
shipwrecked, and he had been saved ; he had come home, and 
had not made himself known because he hated excitement ; he 
thought if he showed up right on the top of the news of the 
shipwreck he should be inundated with inquiries about missing 
relatives, and worried by newspaper reporters. He had passed 
his house one evening, and he supposed that was when Mrs. 
Turvey saw him and thought he was a ghost. He had met Duck, 
Messrs. Grigg & Limpet's clerk, last evening, and sent a message 
to them. He should take up his residence at his house again to- 
morrow, and on any matter of business that might be necessary 
Grigg & Limpet could communicate with him there. He would 
call on Birnie himself. 

That was the substance of the professional interview. Mr. 
Grigg listened and said, ' Exactly,' ' Indeed,' and limited his share 
of the conversation to other remarks of a similar character. 
Limpet launched out a little more freely, but Mr. Egerton 



86 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

politely declined to be drawn beyond the boundary he had 
evidently marked out for himself. 

When Mr. Egerton had retired, Grigg said, ' 'Strodinary man,' 
and Limpet nodded, and added, that ' There was something more 
than that at the bottom of it, or he would eat his head.' 

However, as it was not for them to inquire into their client's 
secrets, but only to transact his business and protect his interest, 
they immediately set their clerks to work to prepare a statement 
which would show Mr. Egerton what had been done in his 
absence, and how his affairs stood. 

When Mr. G-rigg was giving instructions to Duck, a tall, 
good-looking young gentleman, dressed in the height of fashion, 
strolled into the room, and, after carefully hitching up his 
trousers at the knees to avoid creasing them, dropped gracefully 
into an arm-chair. 

' Well, governor, I'm here to time, you see. They wanted to 
put me in room 6 because you were engaged, but that game 
wouldn't do with me, you know.' 
Mr. Limpet frowned. 
Mr. Grigg did the same, and more. 

'Mr. Limpet,' he said, 'do you allow your son to jeer at the 
business ?' 

'Jeer at the business, be hanged !' said Limpet, junior, rattling 
the handle of his cane against his beautiful teeth. ' Can't a 
fellow have his joke ? Here, charge me 6s. 8d. for it, and put it 
down in the bill.' 

'Don't be ridiculous, Reginald,' growled Mr. Limpet; 'you 
annoy Mr. Grigg very much.' 

' Oh, no, he doesn't. He can't help being a fool,' 
Reginald Limpet laughed. 

' You're talkative to-day, Mr. Grigg, ' he said ; ' glad to see it. 
Shows business is good. Well, look here, governor,' he added, 
turning to Mr. Limpet ; ' you asked me to come, and I've come. 
What is it you want ? To double my allowance, or to get me 
to introduce Mr. Grigg into the best female society ?' 
Grigg positively writhed in his chair. 

' Pretty female society it must be that tolerates you !' he 
exclaimed. ' Limpet, settle with your son, and let him go ; 
we're busy.' 

' All right,' said Mr. Reginald ; ' don't leave off for me ; I'll 
smoke till you've finished. Got the Sporting Life anywhere ?' 
Limpet smiled behind a parchment. 

Limpet had a great admiration for the daring manner in which 
his boy defied Grigg. Grigg was a crusty old bachelor, and so, 
of course, never had a son, and very likely that made him more 
disagreeable to young Limpet than he would otherwise have 
been. 

' Shall I step out of the room, Mr. Limpet, till you've finished 
your family affairs ?' asked Mr. Grigg with a withering smile. 



LIMPET, JUNIOR, TRANSACTS BUSINESS. 87 

'Don't do that,' said Reginald, jumping up and taking his 
father's arm. ' You might get shut in room C, or room D, or 
room F, you know, and we might blow up the wrong pipe after 
you when we'd finished, and have to start all the clerks off in 
exploring parties through the whole establishment in search o£ 
you. Come away, dad ; we'll go into room double X, if it's 
empty.' 

Limpet called his son a foolish fellow to talk such nonsense, 
and went out with him into the adjoining room. Mr. Limpet's 
command to his son was a very simple one. When it had been 
given, young Limpet was about to go, when he remembered 
something. 

' By-the-bye, governor,' he said, ' you couldn't give me a 
cheque this morning, could you ?' 

Mr. Limpet thought perhaps he could. He went back into 
his private office and returned presently with it. 

' There you are, Reg,' he said. ' Of course you're going to 
cash it at once ?' 

1 Rather, governor. I shall take a hansom to the bank.' 

' Well, then, I wish you'd get me a cheque-book for home, and 
take it back with you. I haven't a cheque in the house.' 

' All right, governor,' answered Reginald. 

Mr. Limpet handed his son an order on his bank for a cheque- 
book, shook hands with him, and returned to smooth the ruffled 
Grigg. 

At the bank Mr. Reginald Limpet received £20 in gold and a 
cheque-book. He stowed the gold in his pocket, but the cheque- 
book was not such an easy matter. Wherever he put it it dis- 
arranged the set of something. At last, after several vain 
attempts to dispose of it artistically, Mr. Limpet, junior, decided 
that it must go in his coat-tail pocket, and if it bulged out 
behind it must. 

Into the tail-pocket of his fautless frock-coat went the 
cheque-book, and the young man, jumping into a hansom, 
ordered the driver to take him to the Junior Corinthian. The 
Junior Corinthian was Mr. Limpet's club. 

He stayed at the club for an hour, and then strolled up New 
Bond Street. 

Now, when Mr. Limpet, junior, went into the bank in the 
City, two gentlemen were intensely interested in his movements. 
One of them followed him in, and heard him ask for a cheque- 
book on Grigg & Limpet's account. 

This gentleman was a dark man, with a hook nose ; the other 
was a thin, wiry-looking youth of about eighteen, with a cun- 
ning-looking face, and cross eyes that seemed for ever on the 
watch round the corners. This young gentleman was dressed in 
a neat grey suit, and looked a clerk as far as his top waistcoat 
button ; beyond that he looked like a billiard marker or a 
sporting gent., for the gayness of his necktie and the curliness 



88 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

of the brim of his billycock would have shocked a City man 
dreadfully. 

The dark gentleman with the hook nose came out directly and 
began talking to him. When a policeman came by, the dark 
man asked him if the blue omnibuses passed there. 

' Yes,' said the policeman, ' but there isn't another for twenty 
minutes.' 

Mr. Seth Preene, the possessor of the hook nose, knew that 
well enough, but he wished to let the policeman know that he 
was waiting for an omnibus, otherwise the policeman might have 
wondered at his loitering so long. 

"When young Limpet came out, Mr. Preene and his young 
friend watched him into the cab and heard him tell the cabman 
where to drive to. 

' Now then, Boss,' said Mr. Preene, when the cab had driven 
off, ' you know what to do.' 

' Bumbo,' answered the young gentleman. ' He's got some- 
thing in his tail pocket as he didn't 'ave when he went in.' 

' And that he won't have when he gets home, eh, Boss ?' said 
Mr. Preene, with an encouraging laugh. 

' Not if Boss Knivett can help it,' said the youth with a grin. 
Then he hailed a hansom and desired to be driven to the street 
in which the Junior Corinthian Club was situated. 

' Blue Pigeons at ten if it's right,' whispered Mr. Preene, as 
he closed the cab-door for his young friend. Then the driver 
whipped his horse and whirled Mr. Boss Knivett rapidly from 
the watchful eye of his friend. 

That afternoon as Mr. Limpet, junior, strolled up Bond 
Street, Mr. Boss Knivett strolled also. But Mr. Limpet, 
junior, was a long time giving Mr. Boss the desired chance, 
and he began to fear he might not have a good day's sport 
after all. 

The little bird whose tail Mr. Knivett wished to get close 
enough to to put salt upon without observation kept from shop- 
windows and from crowds and strolled about well in the middle 
of the streets. 

Boss was almost in despair when his prey turned into the 
Burlington Arcade. There the fates were still unpropitious, 
until Boss, looking about him, saw a young lady who nodded to 
him pleasantly. She was a young lady very loudly dressed, and 
her cheeks were suggestive of artistic treatment. 

Boss crossed the arcade and spoke to her quietly. 

' I'm on a good lay, Liz,' he said. ' You can stand in a couple 
of quid if you like, if it comes off. No danger.' 

' No danger ? Honour bright ?' said the girl. 

' Not a blessed haporth. I only want you to have a fit. Do 
you tumble ?' 

' Bight,' said the young lady. ' When ?' 



LIMPET, JUNIOR, TRANSACTS BUSINESS. 89 

' Walk in front of that gentleman,' said Boss, pointing out 
Mr. Limpet, junior, ' and when you hear me sneeze drop.' 

The young lady strolled quickly away, and presently she was 
in front of Mr. Limpet, and Boss was behind him, the people 
in the arcade passing to and fro and sometimes crossing between 
them. 

Suddenly Mr. Knivett had a bad cold and sneezed violently. 
At the same moment the young lady uttered a piercing shriek, 
and went down in a heap on the ground, kicking and struggling 
furiously. 

A crowd came about in a minute, and Mr. Limpet was in 
the thick of it. Mr. Knivett was squeezed up close behind Mr. 
Limpet. Old ladies said, ' Poor creature !' Young ladies looked 
at the painted face and turned away. Old gentlemen and young 
gentlemen crowded round and loossened Liz's bonnet-strings, 
patted her bands, and wondered what they ought to do. 

Mr. Limpet, junior, looked on. That was his role in life. Ho 
was born to look on, and he did it admirably. Presently the 
beadle of the Burlington and a policeman came upon the scene. 
Liz was carried into a shop, and the crowd dispersed. 

Mr. Knivett had not remained long. He had no idle curiosity 
to gratify, and a girl in hysterics had no charm for him. lie 
was out of the Burlington and down the other end of Bond 
Street before young Limpet strolled out of the arcade. 

Mr. Knivett was disappointed. He had found nothing in the 
pocket but a cheque-book ; but that evening when he handed it 
over to his employer he was delighted to receive £5 as the price 
of his day's work. 

' I was afraid I'd lost a day, gov'nor,' he said, clutching the 
gold in his hand. 

' Not a bit of it, Boss,' answered Mr. Preene. ' We can do 
with as many blank cheques as you can bring us. My firm will 
always pay a fair price for them.' 

That evening Mr. Knivett, looking in to see some friends at a 
lodging-house in the Mint, told them that Seth Preene knew a 
firm that was in the market for blank cheques. 

For which information the friends were not grateful, one of 
them even going so far as to say that it was stale news. 

And seeing that the gentlemen of the Mint had taken all the 
blank cheques found in pocket-books and all the cheque-books 
1 removed from offices ' to Smith and Co. — or rather to the 
representative of Smith and Co., for the firm never dealt direct 
— for the past month, the reader will perceive that Mr. Boss 
Knivett has much to learn before he takes high rank in his 
profession. 

c- o <s o o 

Mr. Limpet, junior, forgot all about the cheque-book till h;s 
father asked him for it that evening. 



90 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Then he exclaimed, ' Good gracious ! It's been in my pocket 
all the afternoon.' 

He felt in his coat-tail pocket, but it was not there. 

Then he felt in all his pockets, and looked upstairs, and under 
the table, and in his hat, and in his boots, and in all the absurd 
and impossible places where people imagine a lost article may by 
miracle be secreted. 

He took a cab and went back to the Junior Corinthian, but no 
cheque-book had been found there. 

He had lost it. There could be no doubt about it now. 

Mr. Limpet junior's light-hearted composure was quite undis- 
turbed. He was sorry, but it was only a cheque-book. What 
the deuce did it matter ? Now if it had been bank-notes it 
would have been a nuisance. 

Mr. Limpet, senior, was cross, but he recovered his equa- 
nimity under the soothing influence of Reginald's unconcern. 
After all, it was only a cheque-book, of no use to anyone but 
the owner, 

And Smith and Co. 

CHAPTER XVII. 

SMITH AND CO. AT 1VOEIC. 

The firm of Smith and Co. was not an old-established business. 

The gentlemen connected with it had for a long time traded 
on their own account, but it was only quite recently that their 
talents had been united for the benefit of the joint-stock enter- 
prise. The founder of Smith and Co. and the principal partner 
was, as the reader has probably surmised, Mr. Edward Marston. 

Directly that gentleman had secured the necessary capital to 
make a fresh start in life, he had resolved to give his dormant 
business talent a chance of distinguishing itself. His ten years' 
American experience had been of the utmost value to him, and 
soon after his visit to Birnie chance flung him into the company 
of a gentleman who was looking out for a good working partner 
in a commercial speculation. 

Mr. Walter Brooks and Mr. Edward Marston, laying their 
heads together, conceived the idea of starting in business in the 
City as financial agents. Mr. Brooks had a peculiar talent for 
imitating handwriting, and Mr. Marston acquired in America the 
knowledge of a process by which signatures could be transf erred 
from one piece of paper to another in a manner that would defy 
detection. 

But Mr. Marston had not round him the ' workmen ' who were 
necessary before this knowledge could be utilized on an extensive 
scale. 

Mr. Brooks, on the contrary, was acquainted with several 
gentlemen who in the course of their business frequently came 



SMITH AND CO. AT WORK. 91 

into possession of blank cheques. Furthermore, he was intimately 
connected with Mr. Seth Preene, a gentleman who had sonie 
mysterious connection with the police, and yet was willing to 
1 represent ' the firm of Smith and Co., and act as traveller or 
confidential agent as circumstances required. Messrs. Brooks 
and Marston saw at once how remarkably useful they could be 
to each other ; a partnership was formed, and Mr. Brooks let it 
be known that he was in the market for blank cheques. 

Hitherto these articles had not been of much value. They 
were generally filled in for a few pounds, signed with a fancy 
name, and passed off upon ignorant tradespeople. 

But the process was slow and uncertain, and accompanied by 
considerable risk. 

Tradespeople were rapidly losing the first bloom of innocence, 
and cheques from unknown customers were regarded with con- 
siderable suspicion. 

Marston with his capital and his process, and Brooks with his 
connection and experience, saw means of converting what was 
at present a drug in the market into a highly remunerative in- 
vestment. 

Brooks was to be the working partner, Marston was to be the 
capitalist and secret director, and the two together were to be 
' Smith and Co.' 

A small furnished office was to be taken, a week's rent being 
paid in advance, and a clerk was to be secured by advertise- 
ment. 

The clerk was required to present the cheques. If the opera- 
tion was successful, Smith and Co. would vacate their office at 
once, and turn up in another part of the City, ready to go on 
again. If the operation failed, the clerk would be detained. 
Smith and Co. would take precautions to have an early know- 
ledge of the fact, and it is hardly probable that the manager 
would be found at his office on the return of the clerk, acsom- 
panied by the police. 

Such was the nature of the business of the firm in whose ser- 
vice Mr. George Smith hoped to rise to a position of indepen- 
dence. It is needless to say that he played the rdle intended for 
him. He was merely an innocent tool in the hands of the clever 
rogues. 

George had only presented one cheque for the firm at present. 
It was for £250, and drawn by Blumson and Co. George 
brought the money back all right, and the next day he was sent 
to an office of the firm in quite a different part of the City. 

Now, when Mr. Boss Knivett delivered the cheque-book stolen 
from the tail-pocket of Mr. Limpet, junior, to Mr. Preene, who 
in due course handed it over to Mr. Brooks, the latter gentleman 
found it necessary to consult the senior partner. 

Mr. Brooks had no knowledge of the signature of Messrs. 
Grigg and Limpet. 



92 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

He called at Eden Villa early the next morning and laid the 
case before Mr. Marston. 

' We must get the firm's signature somehow, and then run the 
cheque for £500. Lawyers keep big balances ; they've always a 
lot of their clients' money.' 

' That's all very well,' said Mr. Brooks, removing the wig and 
gold spectacles, in which he generally went abroad when there 
was any reason why he should avoid recognition ; ' but how are 
Ave to get the signature ?' 

' I have it !' exclaimed Marston, after thinking a moment. 
' Go and buy a shilling bill-stamp, and give me your acceptance 
in your own name and at your private address for £100. Date 
it four months back, and draw it for three, so that it will be a 
month overdue now.' 

Mr. Brooks didn't quite see what the senior partner's idea was, 
but he did as he was requested. He went out and purchased 
a shilling stamp in the neighbourhood, and returned to Eden 
Villa to fill it up and accept it in accordance with Marston's 
instructions. 

' Now,' said Marston, when it was finished, ' leave the rest 
to me.' 

Directly Mr. Brooks had gone, Mr. Marston took a hansom 
and drove over to Birnie's. 

Dr. Birnie was in, and on this occasion Rebecca admitted the 
visitor without any preliminary parleying through the flap. Mr. 
Edward Marston was a very different-looking person in his fault- 
less clothes to the seedy-looking fellow who had once aroused 
Rebecca's suspicions as to the honesty of his intentions. 

Well, Marston,' said the doctor, as his visitor was ushered in, 
' come to see me again ?' 

' Yes, old fellow, and of course I want a favour.' 

' I'm sorry to hear it. The favours you generally want are 
expensive ones.' 

' You're needlessly rude, Birnie,' answered Marston, eyeing his 
old companion disdainfully. ' I've never asked you for anything 
but the payment of a just debt. I am happy to say I am now 
quite independent of the assistance of my friends' 

He spoke the last word with a scornful accent. 

As soon as Birnie understood that Marston had not come to 
him for money, his manner changed, and he was as cordial as he 
had previously been cold. 

1 Excuse me, old boy,' he said, ' if I was rude ; but I've been a 
good deal worried and overworked lately, and I'm tetchy. What 
can I do for you ?' 

' Give me an introduction to your solicitors, Grigg and 
Limpet.' 

' What the deuce do you want with solicitors, Ned ?' said 
Birnie, with a look of genuine astonishment. 

' Well, you sse, I've followed your example and Gurth's — I've 



SMITH AND CO. AT WORK. 93 

gone up in the world a little. I've had a bit of luck, and I've 
got some property coming to me. I want a respectable firm 
of solicitors. I thought you wouldn't object to give me a letter 
to yours.' 

Birnie hesitated a moment. He was afraid of Mars ton. Still, 
he thought to himself, if it was anything wrong be wouldn't go to 
Grigg and Limpet. 

' You hesitate,' said Marston, watching Birnie's countenance. 
1 What's your objection ?' 

' Xone, my dear boy,' answered the doctor hastily. ' Of course 
I'll give it you. Glad to do anything I can for you.' 

While the doctor was writing the letter of introduction for 
Marston to take to Grigg and Limpet, the latter turned to the 
mantelpiece, where several visiting-cards were lying about. 

He handled them carelessly till he came to one which he lifted 
up and looked at eagerly. 

' Hullo !' he said, ' then Gurth's been here ?' 
' Yes,' said Birnie, still writing. 

'I saw a paragraph in the papers that he'd been saved from the 
wreck after all, and carried back to America by a passing vessel, 
but I didn't know he was in town.' 
' Yes ; he's been back some time.' 
' Where's he staying ?' 

Birnie hesitated. Should he tell him ? After all, if he didn't, 
Marston could soon find out. Let Egerton take care of himself. 
If Marston wanted to bleed him, he would, and nothing could 
stop him. Still Birnie didn't like the idea of anyone but 
himself having any influence over Gurth, and for very good 
reasons. 

He hesitated so long that Marston repeated the question. 
' Oh, I really don't know for certain,' answered the doctor, 
folding his note and handing it in an open envelope to his 
visitor ; ' but I suppose he'll be at his town house for a little 
time.' 

' Where's that ?' 

Birnie gave him the address. After all, he wasn't committing 
an indiscretion, for it was in the Post Office Directory. People 
of a certain position in life are doomed. They may hide their 
heads in the sand of fancied privacy as much as they like, but 
the agents of Messrs. Kelly and Co. can see them. He who 
aspires to the dignity of rates, taxes, and a vote cannot shield 
himself from the fierce light of publicity which falls upon a 
registered address in the Post Office Directory. 

Marston thanked Birnie for the note and the information, and, 
lighting a cigar in the hall, was smiled to the front by Rebecca, 
who had been won over with a florin. It was Marston's business 
now to make friends wherever he went. 

At the door the hansom that had brought him was still waiti ng- 



94 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS 

He gave the driver Grigg and Limpet's address, and was rapidly 
whirled up Lilac Tree Road and out of sight. 

Birnie went back into his study and sat for a moment in deep 
thought. 

' I wonder what the deuce he's up to now !' he said to himself. 
' Some deep-laid scheme, or he's altered considerably since the 
old days. It's devilish unfortunate his turning up at all. Gurth's 
a fool, but this man's a rogue, and you never know how to be 
prepared for a rogue.' 

It was hard on Birnie, now that he had settled down into a 
sober, useful, respectable life, that the fellow should turn up 
again and presume on their old acquaintanceship. And now 
if he was going to get thick with Egerton again. ' By Jove !' ex- 
claimed Birnie, ' I'll nip that little game in the bud if I find 
it necessary.' 

The next morning Mr. Brooks received a letter at his residence 
which very much astonished him. 

It was a letter from Messrs. Grigg and Limpet, informing him 
that they were instructed by Mr. Edward Marston to require the 
immediate payment of £100 and expenses on his dishonoured 
acceptance. To avoid further proceedings, Mr. Brooks was re- 
quested to remit the amount without delay. 

Mr. Brooks went off to Eden Villa at once. 

' What the dickens does this mean ?' he exclaimed, flinging 
down the lawyers' letter on the table. 

Marston looked at it and laughed. 

'It means I am going to show what can be done with capital 
and brains combined. Take this and pay your just debts at 
once, sir.' 

Marston drew a hundred-pound note from his pocket-book and 
handed it to Brooks. Mr. Brooks took it mechanically. 

'I'm blest if I see what you're up to now,' he said. 

' That shows how much your firm stood in need of new blood. 
Send this note and the few shillings expenses, and then Grigg 
and Limpet will have recovered the debt.' 

' And they'll hand the money over to you,' said Brooks. 'I 
don't see where the pull comes in.' 

' Brooks, I've a great respect for you as a man of business, 
but, upon my word, your faculties are beginning to fail. Grigg 
and Limpet will remit this money to me by cheque.' 

'Oh!' 

That was all Mr. Brooks said, but it contained a whole dic- 
tionary of words. It was an ' Oh !' of sudden revelation, of 
admiration, of ecstasy, and of triumph. 

Marston watched the effect of his brilliant idea on his com- 
panion with pleasure. It was his desire to dazzle all men with 
whom he came into contact, to stand a head and shoulders above 
his fellows. Now that he had what he was pleased to call ' a fair 
start,' his ambition was boundless, 



SMITH AND CO. AT WORK. 95 

His feet, at present, were on lowly stepping stones ; as lie pro- 
gressed, and the field of fortune opened out before him in a series 
of golden vistas, he would spurn the humble instruments of his 
advancement from him, and reign unquestioned and unchallenged 
in a new world. 

' Brooks, my boy,' he said, when that gentleman had got over 
his mingled admiration and enthusiasm, ' I am only at the 
beginning of the work I have to do. I am afraid you won't 
be able to go very far on the road with me if you don't brighten 
up a bit.' 

Mr. Brooks hoped Mr. Marston would always be able to make 
use of his services. 

' Well, it will be time enough to talk about it when I can't. 
At any rate, we won't dissolve partnership till there's a rattling 
good profit to divide. Now cut back to the office and send 
your messenger to the solicitors with the money. They've pro- 
mised to remit me at once if they recover it, as I've said I'm 
having town. I shall have their cheque to-morrow, and then we 
can set to work.' 

' Shall I come up to you to-morrow ?' 

' No, I think not. I'll come down to the office to you. There's 
no danger over the other cheque, I suppose ? The office isn't 
watched ?' 

' No ; Preene's got the matter in hand, and he's put the Yard 
on the wrong scent altogether. I shall have the tip from him 
if there should be danger.' 

' Very well, then, I'll come round at eleven if I receive the 
cheque. Get your clerk out of the way, so that you are alone 
when I come. Good-morning.' 

Mr. Marston bowed Mr. Brooks out and returned to his 
library to finish his cigar and a romance he was reading when his 
partner interrupted him. 

Mr. Marston had just got to the death of the heroine, a very 
lovable character. The description of her last hours was most 
pathetically drawn by the author, and, as Marston read, the big 
lump came in his throat and his eyes filled with tears. 

Mr. Marston had a most sympathetic nature, and any story of 
human suffering distressed him immensely. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

T II E FORGED CHEQUE. 

On the morning following Mr. Brooks's interview with the 
senior partner at his private residence, George, on his arrival at 
the office, was instantly despatched on a commission which 
would keep him out of the way till twelve o'clock. 

Exactly at eleven, the time appointed by the senior partner, 



96 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

a gentleman arrived at the office — the said office being on the 
second floor of a particularly dingy house in Gutter Lane. 

It was not the elegant Mr. Marston who entered the little 
room with 'Smith and Co. (Temporary Office)' pasted across 
the door — that is, if one might judge by appearances. The 
gentleman who came in and accosted Mr. Brooks in a familiar 
manner was a German-looking gentleman, with the black silk 
square-looking cap which gives such a round appearance to the 
face, and the peak of which comes down over the eyes like a 
shade. The clothes he wore were German in cut, and the tight 
military trousers dropping well over the Wellington boots were 
unmistakable ; and, to complete the character, there was the 
signet-ring on the first finger of the left hand. He carried an 
overcoat across his shoulder, German fashion, and carefully 
tucked under his arm was the red Baedeker, without which no 
German feels himself safe in the mighty City of London. 

Opening the door cautiously, the German gentleman peeped in. 

' Ees dis de offeece of Herr Gutzeit ?' he asked politely. 

' Bumbo,' was the strange answer returned by Mr. Brooks. 
' Bumbo, guv'nor ; I'm alone.' 

How on earth Mr. Brooks could expect a German gentleman 
to understand English slang I don't know, but the German 
gentleman evidently did, for he stepped inside and closed the 
door. 

' I wasn't sure you'd be alone,' he said, as he turned the key, 
' so I thought it best to keep up the character.' 

' You make a fine German sausage, Marston,' answered Mr. 
Brooks, regarding his visitor, with admiration. ' Blest if it 
don't make me want some sauerkraut to look at you. But you 
didn't come down the Camden Boad that guy, did you ?' 

' No,' answered Marston, for he it was ; ' I wore my coat over 
the costume, and left my hat to be blocked coming along. But, 
business, business. Where's this young Smith '{' 

' He's gone out— won't be back till twelve.' 

' Well, we'll have the cheque done by then. Grigg and Lim- 
pet remitted at once. Look here.' 

Mr. Marston pulled out his pocket-book, and drew from it 
a cheque, which he showed to Mr. Brooks. It was Grigg and 
Limpet's cheque for £100. 

'•Capital !' e.xxkamed Brooks. ' By Jove ! it was a splendid 
dodge, Marston. About the cheapest way of getting a signa- 
ture to copy I ever heard of. I'm ready ; sit down.' 

The pair of worthies sat down. 

Mr. Brooks, producing the stolen cheque-book from his pocket, 
tore out a cheque and placed it side by side with Grigg and 
Limpet's genuine draft for £100. 

' How much shall we make it ?' 

' £o00,' answered Marston. ' Less won't pay us for the 
trouble we ve taken.' 



THE FORGED CHEQUE. 97 

' Is there sure to be enough to meet it ?' 

' Certain ; they always keep a big balance. I've ascertained 
that.' 

Mr. Brooks proceeded to fill up the blank cheque for £500, 
imitating exactly the style of writing in the body of the genuine 
cheque. That was his part of the work. When that was done, 
and only the signature required, he handed both cheques over to 
Marston. 

That gentleman then subjected them to an ingenious process, 
into the details of which, from motives of prudence, it will be 
perhaps, as well not to enter. 

Neither spoke during the operation. When it was finished, 
Marston lifted the genuine cheque, and handed it to Brooks. 

' Look !' he said. 

Brooks turned it over and glanced at the back. 

1 Not a mark on it !' he said, after examining it carefully. 

' Now look at the forgery.' 

Mr. Brooks took the duplicate cheque and looked at it closely. 

' Why, there's no signature at all !' he said. ' What's the use 
of this ?' 

'That's just the beauty of this process, my dear fellow,' ex- 
claimed Marston. ' The old transfer business was clumsy, and 
almost sure to be found out. This, on the contrary, is elegant 
and defies detection. The man who invented this process made 
a fortune in America.' 

' Why didn't he come over here ?' 

' He met with an accident,' said Marston, laughing. ' He was 
shot in a drunken row. It was by the merest fluke that I got 
to know this process. I thought it might be useful some day.' 

' But I don't quite see the use of it,' urged Mr. Brooks, still 
gazing anxiously at the apparently unsigned cheque. 

Marston took it from him, and drew from his pocket a little 
box containing a fine white powder. This powder he spread 
over the lower part of the cheque till it completely covered it. 

He left it so for a few minutes, then he took the cheque up 
and emptied the powder back into the box, passing his fingers 
carefully down the paper to see that not a grain remained. 

' Now look at it,' he exclaimed. 

Mr. Brooks did look, and he was delighted at what he saw. 

A faint violet signature was at the bottom of the cheque. It 
was perfect. Every dot, every line. 

' I guess the rest,' he said. ' Any special ink wanted ?' 

1 Xone,' answered Marston. ' Fire away.' 

Mr. Brooks did fire away. He went carefully over the faint 
violet outline with a pen and ink, and when he had finished and 
the signature was dry, he put the two cheques side by side, and 
slapped his thigh with delight. 

' By Jove, Marston, it's perfect ; the money's in our pocket.' 

' Not yet,' answered Marston ; ' but it soon will be. What 

7 



98 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

time will your clerk be back ? We ought to send him to cash 
it at once. I shall cash the genuine one first, in case of acci- 
dents.' 

Mr. Brooks's face suddenly fell. 
H'm !' he said, ' that's awkward, too. I forgot to tell you, 
but the rummest thing in the world occurred yesterday. When 
I got back after seeing you, I gave Smith a note for G-rigg and 
Limpet, with the money in it, to take at once. " Grigg and 
Limpet," he says, looking at the address, "why that's where my 
landlord is." Of course I asked him a question or two then, 
and it turns out this greenhorn of mine is lodging with a man 
named Duck, one of Grigg and Limpet's clerks.' 

' That's awkward. He may have said something already,' 
said Marston, looking grave. 

' Not he ; he's a gentleman,' answered Mr. Brooks ; ' so I 
knew how to tackle him. "Mr. Smith, I said, "you occupy a 
post of confidence with the firm, which will lead, I hope, one 
day to great things. I need hardly tell you, Mr. Smith, that, in 
our business, confidence between employer and employed is 
necessary. I trust you do not talk with your landlord about 
the business of the firm ?" 

'He stammered and blushed, and said he might have said 
something, but not lately. I told him to take the note and put 
it in the firm's letter-box and come away, but on no account 
to mention to any one from whom he came, and not to breathe 
a word to his landlord that our firms had business together. 
He promised.' 

' But how do you know he didn't ?' 

'My dear fellow,' said Mr. Brooks, 'he's as honest and in- 
nocent as a baby. I'd trust him with anything. He kept 
his word, I'll swear ; but still I don't think, under the circum- 
stances, it will be advisable to send him to cash Grigg and 
Limpet's cheque.' 

' Certainly not,' said Marston ; ' and what's more, you must 
get him away from here at once, and away from his lodgings. 
He's a link, and I hate links. Directly a link's, established, if 
a clever man doesn't find it, a fool will blunder on to it. He 
must be got out of the way at once.' 

Mr. Brooks recognised the necessity of removing the ' link ' 
at once. Duck would be sure to hear of the forgery on his 
masters, and George's very greenness might furnish a clue to 
the whole thing at any moment. 

'In the mean time,' asked Marston, pacing the room im- 
patiently, 'who's going to cash this cheque ? Will you ?' 

Mr. Brooks hesitated, and humm'd and ha'd. It might be 
dangerous. He might be detained, and he had no idea of being 
detained. If George had been detained it wouldn't have mat- 
tered. They would all have time to clear out. No ; on con- 
sideration it wouldn't do at all for him to take the cheque. 



GERTTE MAKES A PROMISE. 99 

They were on the horns of a dilemma now, and it was necessary 
to act at once. The person presenting the cheque must be a 
gentlemanly person to inspire confidence, and there wasn't one 
of the regular gang they could trust. 

Suddenly Marston brought his fist down on the table. 

' I have it,' he exclaimed. ' There's only one way. This 
fellow must present the cheque and bring the money back to 
you.' 

' Yes ; but suppose he talks about it to Grigg and Limpet's 
clerk when he goes home ?' 
He won't talk about it.' 

'What do you mean ?' 

' You must not give him the cheque till to-morrow to present. 
By that time I shall have arranged everything.' 

' You can't stop him talking.' 

'No, but I can stop him ever going back to Duck's again.' 



CHAPTER XIX. 

GERTIE MAKES A PROMISE. 

Since the accidental meeting with Marston at the house of the 
dog-fancier, Heckett, Ruth Adrian had avoided the place. The 
sight of her old sweetheart had opened the floodgates of memory, 
and the torrent sweeping over her had washed away all that 
time in ten long years had piled above the remains of the buried 
love. Once more it lay bare ; once more her heart was filled 
with it. Her love had been so earnest, so real, it had permeated 
her whole being. It had been a task almost superhuman to 
crush it, but once she believed she had succeeded. 

Devoted to her father and mother, occupying all her spare 
time in acts of quiet benevolence, she had managed to find in 
the new life she led a means of distraction and forgetfulness of 
the past. But, at the sight of the idol she had so ruthlessly 
shattered, the structure she had reared to hide the empty pedestal 
crumbled away, and the work of years was undone. 

The meeting with her discarded lover at Heckett's had 
seriously alarmed her. All through the years, hearing nothing, 
she had hoped that he might have altered his course of life, and 
in the new world to which he had gone found some good woman 
to be his wife who would have led him gently back into the 
path of rectitude. 

Now she knew that her hopes had not been realized. She had 
seen enough of the world to know that men like Marston did 
not associate with men like Heckett for any good. In her visits 
to Gertie she had gathered from the child's innocent chatter 
enough to feel certain that the animals were only a blind to hide 
the real nature of the burly old ruffian's business. Lying awake 

7—2 



ioo ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

night after night, she pictured Marston as the leader of some 
desperate gang of men at war with society. She knew that his 
talents, if misapplied, would enable him to carry crime into the 
region of the fine arts, and she dreaded to think of the ultimate 
fate of one who had been the hero of her girlhood's dream. 

Gradually she worked herself into the belief that she was 
responsible for this man's sinful life. God had flung him across 
her path in order that she might rescue him. Perhaps she 
ought to have married him, and by her influence have won him 
from wickedness. A glorious work had been committed to her 
hand, and she had shrunk back like a coward. Was it too late 
now ? Ruth Adrian shuddered as she pictured Marston hurried 
into crime, reckless of everything, because of her conduct to 
him. How could she atone now for the evil she had unwittingly 
wrought? 

Anxieties and distress of mind began to affect her health, and 
the old people noticing her pale face and haggard look, besought 
her not to overwork herself by her constant labours among the 
poor. Talking of these labours the name of Gertie Heckett 
came up one morning at breakfast. 

Ruth, with a blush of shame, confessed she had not seen the 
child for a fortnight. 

Mr. Adrian was astonished. 

' Why, my dear,' he said kindly, ' I thought little Gertie was 
your favourite pupil.' 

' So she was, papa ; but I — I haven't been well enough to go 
there lately.' 

Ruth stammered and blushed, for the fact had dawned upon 
her that she was neglecting Gertie, and leaving the child alone 
and exposed to the pernicious influences of her old surroundings. 

'I have put my hand to the plough and turned back,' she 
thought. Already the influence of Marston was asserting itself. 
To her dread of meeting him she had sacrificed the little friend- 
less child whose future so much depended on her constant care. 

'I will hesitate no longer,' said Ruth to herself. 'It is the 
Lord who has flung this man across the pathway of my life 
again. With God's help it shall be for good and not for evil.' 

Later in the day, as Gertie sat upstairs talking to Lion of the 
good lady that never came now, Ruth Adrian pushed the door 
open and walked in quietly. 

Gertie, with a cry of delight, jumped up and ran to her, lifting 
her little face to Ruth, and Lion, leaping up, placed his huge 
f orepaws on her shoulder, and gave a deep bark of welcome. 

' Oh, Miss Adrian !' exclaimed Gertie, as with flushed, happy 
cheeks she sat down by Ruth's side and gently drew Lion down 
into his proper place in the ' class,' ' we were afraid you were ill. 
Lion and I have watched day after day, and we've said our 
lessons over for fear we should forget them.' 

It was Gertie's firm belief that Lion did say his lessons, and 



GERTIE MAKES A PROMISE. 101 

tbat his education was progressing rapidly. If he didn't under- 
stand everything she told him about history and geography, why 
did he always wag his tail ? 

' And do you know, Miss Adrian,' Gertie went on, when Ruth 
had explained her absence as well as she could, 'the parrot's 
getting much better. He swears a little still, but I've taught 
him some good words, and he uses them now instead of the bad 
ones.' 

' Bless your eyes !' shrieked Polly, rubbing his beak against the 
cage. 

' That's much better than what he used to say about our eyes,' 
said Gertie, delighted at Polly's attainments. 

' Very much,' answered Miss Adrian, with a smile. ' But I 
suppose he isn't quite cured yet.' 

' Oh, no, not quite, but nearly. You know I fancy grandfather 
made him swear, and grandfather's very little here now. Since 
that gentleman ' 

Gertie hesitated. Child as she was she remembered that Miss 
Adrian had seemed distressed at the sight of Marston. 

' Go on,' said Ruth, taking Gertie's hand in hers and listening 
with a heightened colour. 'What about that gentleman ?' 

' Well, since he came grandfather's been out a good deal, and 
I fancy they've got important business together.' 

The colour faded from Ruth's cheeks. It was as she feared, 
then. Marston must be mixed up with very bad company in- 
deed if he and old Heckett had business together. 

She questioned Gertie eagerly, and ascertained that Marston 
had been once or twice, and that he always talked in a low tone 
with her grandfather. She had heard something once about 
some gold and thousands of pounds, so she supposed it was very 
important business. 

Gertie's head was full of other things, however, besides 
Marston, and she soon left him to chatter about Lion, and the 
parrot, and the animals, and her lessons, and all the old topics 
in which Ruth had once taken so much interest. 

Ruth let her prattle on, but her thoughts were far away. She 
seemed as though she were thinking out some plan of action. 

Suddenly she stopped Gertie in the middle of a long anecdote 
about Lion and a cat, and said in a serious voice, — 

' Gertie, will you do me a very great service ?' 

' Oh, yes, Mirs Adrian, anything.' 

' Listen, then. If ever this gentleman who comes here to see 
your grandfather should, to your knowledge, be in any danger 
or ill, or if you should hear anything about him that makes you 
think he wants a friend, will you let me know ?' 

Gertie said certainly she would. 

' Don't tell any one I have asked you this, Gertie.' 

' Oh, no ! no one shall know it except Lion, ai.d he's heard 
what you've said, of course.' 



102 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Oh, I don't mind Lion ; he's in all our little secrets,' said 
Miss Adrian smiling ; ' but I hope Polly will be discreet.' 

Gertie laughed at the idea of Polly revealing a secret ; and 
Polly, who had heard its name mentioned, whistled and blessed 
their eyes for a good five minutes. 

Miss Adrian, to satisfy her conscience, gave Gertie a short 
lesson ; but she could not deceive herself. She knew that her 
visit was more on Marston's account than on Gertie's. 

AVhen she rose to go, Gertie hoped she would come again soon, 
and she promised that she would. 

' Perhaps I shall have something to tell you about him, you 
know,' said Gertie, archly 

Miss Adrian flushed scarlet. Was it possible she had betrayed 
herself even to this child ? 

She stooped down and patted Lion's head, and then kissed 
Gertie affectionately. 

' Good-bye, Gertie,' she said ; ' and remember to let me know 
if anything happens.' 

She got halfway down the stairs, and then the thought struck 
her, how would Gertie communicate with her. The child did 
not know where she lived. 

She turned back again and wrote her address on a little piece 
of paper, which she gave to the child, and bade her take care of 
it and not let any one see it. 

Gertie folded the piece of paper, and put it in her bosom. 

She followed Miss Adrian downstairs, and watched her up the 
Dials as far as she could see her ; and then she went back and 
showed Lion the piece of paper, and promised him some day 
they would go and call on the good, kind lady, and perhaps 
have tea with her. 

From the moment Gertie had it in her power to render Ruth 
Adrian a service she longed for the opportunity. She almost 
prayed that something might happen to Marston in her presence 
that very day, in order that she might show her good, kind 
friend how grateful she was, and how faithfully she could keep 
a promise. 

CHAPTER XX. 

GERTIE MAKES A DISCOVERY. 

At the back of the room where the animals were kept was 
another little room, which Heckett himself occupied. Gertie's 
room was upstairs, and she never went into her grandfather's, 
having particularly been enjoined not to do so. 

But on the day of Miss Adrian's visit a peculiar thing 
happened. Lion, who had been wandering about after Miss 
Adrian left, went into her grandfather's room, and was gone so 
long a time that Gertie called him. He didn't answer, and 



GERTIE MAKES A DISCOVERY. 103 

Gertie, passing in, saw him biting at a piece of rag that seemed 
to stick between the boards. Gertie, terrified lest he should be 
doing some mischief for which her grandfather would beat him, 
ran in and drove him out. 

Then she stooped down to pull the piece of rag up and see 
what it was. 

She pulled hard, but it wouldn't come out. She supposed it 
must have got trodden between the boards. She gave one more 
determined pull, and suddenly, to her intense astonishment, the 
floor yielded and she went down with a bump, pulling what at 
first she supposed to be a huge piece of the flooring up with 
her. 

Her terror at what her grandfather would say when he dis- 
covered, as he must do, that she had been into his room, yielded 
to astonishment as it gradually dawned upon her that the floor- 
ing she had really pulled up was a trap-door. 

The piece of rag was the corner of a canvas bag, which had 
evidently been slightly shut in^ and which Lion discovering had 
pulled further and further through. 

The reason that he could not draw it quite through was. 
evident, for the bag which Gertie had pulled up with the 
door lay on the floor, and it was full of something hard and 
heavy. 

Gertie scrambled up off the floor, picked up the bag, and 
peered into the open space below the flooring, wondering why 
her grandfather had such a queer cupboard as that. 

As she looked down she was astonished to see that the space 
was full of canvas bags like this one, only some of them were 
larger and looked peculiar in shape. She lifted one up and 
opened it and saw only what she thought was a pewter pot in it. 

She thought it very strange that her grandfather should keep 
pewter pots and heavy bags under his floor ; but while she was 
looking and wondering she heard the sound of footsteps coming 
up the stairs. 

In an instant she was seized with a paroxysm of fear. If her 
grandfather found her there, what would he do ? The foot- 
steps sounded nearer. 

Hastily flinging in the bag and closing the trap-door, Gertie, 
hardly knowing what she did, crept up into a corner behind a 
box near the door, which was ajar. 

She was covered with dust from kneeling on the floor, and 
her face was so hot and flushed she feared to meet her grand- 
father. She hoped he was coming in with some one and would 
go out again directly. 

From her corner she could peep through the crack of the 
door. 

She saw a gentleman, who looked like a foreigner, enter first, 
closely followed by her grandfather, and then another gentle- 
man with a dark face and a hook nose. 



104 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Lying close and trembling in every limb, she was obliged to 
listen to their conversation. 

' Gertie,' said her grandfather. 

There was no answer. 

' All right,' said the old man ; ' she's gone out for a minute, I 
expect. Shut the door and then she can't come in.' 

The foreign gentleman, who had a black silk cap on, but who 
spoke very good English, closed the door, and then, addressing 
the other two, appeared to be giving them instructions. 

Gertie didn't hear quite all they said, but she caught the name 
of Marston spoken by her grandfather, and she instantly made 
up her mind it was Marston who was being talked about. She 
listened eagerly. The chance of serving Miss Adrian had come 
sooner than she could have hoped. 

Sometimes the three men spoke so low she could hardly make 
out what they said, but she heard something about the police, 
and that to-morrow some one, whom she presumed to be Marston, 
was to be met by one of them after he had come from the bank 
with the money for a cheque. 

' They'll search his lodgings, of course,' said the foreign 
gentleman ; ' and we must take care something's found there. 
Who'll do it ?' 

'I'll manage it,' answered the dark gentleman with the hook 
nose. ' I shall go with the 'tecs, and shall give the information. 
Leave the case to me ; I'll make it straight enough. If you 
want him put out of the way for a bit, you can reckon it done.' 

Gertie heard this, and more, and she instantly concluded the 
gentleman in whom Miss Adrian took so much interest was in 
danger. 

Child as she was, she had been bred amid surroundings which 
inculcated habits of self-dependence and fertility of resource. 
Lying there, half-dead with fear, she had still enough sense left 
to plan out her course of action. 

She would go to Miss Adrian's at once and warn her. 

When the three men had agreed together what they were to 
do, the dark gentleman with the hook nose went out and left 
Heckett and the foreigner together. 

' That big affair I spoke to you about is ripening, Heckett,' 
said the foreigner. ' We shall rely on you.' 

' I'll be in it,' growled the dog-fancier ; ' but I shall want my 
fair share.' 

' It'll be the biggest thing you ever did in your life. I shall 
set Brooks to work directly I'm sure of my ground, and then you 
must be ready. We may have to start any night.' 

The two worthies then conversed together in a lower tone, and 
presently the foreign gentleman said ' Good-day ' and went out. 

Josh Heckett, left alone, looked about him. 

' I wonder where the deuce that gal's got to ?' he said. 

He came and peered into his own room and went out again. 



GERTIE MAKES A DISCOVERY. 105 

'She must bo out in the Dials,' Gertie heard him say. 'I 
hope she don't have the place like this of ten.' 

1'resently Gertie heard the clang of his heavy boots going 
down the rickety stairs. 

' lie's gone out to look for me,' she thought. 

She slipped out from her hiding-place, rushed upstairs to her 
own little room, and knocked the fluff and dust off her dress. 

While she was there her grandfather came in again, and 
shouted up the stairs : 

' Gertie, are you there ?' 

'Yes, grandfather,' she called out. 'I had a headache, and 
laiil down, and dropped off to sleep.' 

' Well,' growled the old man, ' come down and look arter the 
place. If you go to sleep again I'll wake yer up.' 

(iertie came down trembling. The old man eyed her keenly 
for a moment, then bidding her keep her eyes open and not 
leave the place again, he lit his pipe and went out. 

Latterly Josh Heckett had been very little at home, leaving 
the business, such as it was, almost entirely to Gertie. The 
child noticed that he never bought any fresh animals now, and 
that anything sold was not replaced. 

She asked him once if the stock wasn't getting low, and he 
nodded his head. 

' I'm going to give up business, my lass,' he said, with the 
nearest approach to a smile his stern, fierce face could manage. 
' We're going to make our fortunes and retire.' 

Gertie listened to her grandfather's retreating footsteps, then 
she flung herself down by Lion, aud, throwing her arms round 
the dog's neck, cried out : 

' Oh, Lion, Lion, however shall we let Miss Adrian know ?' 

She .sit by the dog as the hours went by, endeavouring to 
think how she could get to the address on the piece of paper 
without being discovered. 

She didn't know if it was near or far. She thought she would 
wait till the night, when it was time to feed the animals, shut 
up the place, and go upstairs to her own little room. 

She always locked the door at night, and her grandfather 
had another key which he let himself in with, as he had 
to pass through the ' shop,' as he called it, to get to his bed- 
room. 

Perhaps she could get out and get home again before he came 
in. 

As the afternoon waned and the evening brought the longed- 
for darkness, Gertie's plans began to assume a more definite 
shape. 

Trembling and almost terrified at her own boldness, she put 
on her bonnet and cloak, and went the round of the cages and 
the hutches and kennels, giving the few animals that were left 
their evening ration. For each she had a kind word, and they 



io6 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

all came at her call as close to her as their surroundings would 
allow them. 

When she had given Lion his biscuits, she kissed him and told 
him to be very good while she was away, and that she would be 
back directly. 

Suddenly she recollected that she had disturbed the things ia 
her grandfather's room, and had not put them tidy. 

He might notice them and suspect something. 

She went into the mysterious chamber, and Lion followed 
her. When she had put the room as she had found it, she 
recollected that she had disturbed the things under the trap- 
door. It took her a long time to find where to lift the trap. 
But presently it yielded, and the store beneath lay exposed to 
view. 

She put the little bags and parcels as tidy as she could, holding 
a candle which she had lighted so that the light fell on the buried 
treasure. 

Stooping over, her head below the flooring, and her little hands 
busily engaged in putting the bags as she found they were before, 
she did not hear the outer door open. 

Josh Heckett had come home early to meet some friends. 

As he entered the room he saw the candle-light streaming 
through the door of his bedroom. 

With a cry of rage he sprang forward and rushed in. 

Gertie uttered a scream of terror at the sudden appearance of 
her grandfather, and knelt glued to the spot. 

The old man's face wore a look of fury she had never seen 
before. 

' Little wretch !' he shrieked, seizing her by the shoulders. 
' So this is how you repay me for all I've done for you ! You'd 
rob me, rob me !' he shrieked, raising his voice and burning 
with passion ; ' rob a poor old man who's kept you from the 
workhouse, you brat ! Curse you, what have you taken ? Quick 
—quick.' 

He shook the child violently in his rage, as though he expected 
gold to fall from the folds of her dress. 

' Oh, don't, grandfather — don't,' moaned Gertie, white with 
terror. ' I haven't touched anything — indeed I haven't. 

' Who put you up to this ? Who set you to rob a poor old 
man ? Speak, you little devil, or I'll wring your neck.' 

He seized the child in his blind rage by the throat so violently 
that she uttered a shriek of pain. 

The next second something sprang at the old man — something 
which with fierce eyes had watched the scene from a corner of 
the room. 

As Gertie shrieked out, the huge mastiff Lion uttered a fierce 
growl, and, springing at the child's adversary, seized him by the 
throat. 



GERTIE MAKES A DISCOVERY 107 

Gertie leapt to her feet. ' Lion, Lion,' she cried. ' Oh, don't, 
don't.' 

Josh Heckett, old as he was, was still a powerful man. Ha 
gripped the dog, and they struggled fiercely for a moment. 

With almost superhuman eifort he freed himself from the 
fierce beast, and then, beside himself with pain and rage, uttered 
a volley of oaths and cried out that he would kill Gertie. 

The child, once free, darted from the room and tore down the 
stairs and out into the Dials, never stopping to look behind her 
till, white, breathless, and almost fainting, she had got clear of 
Little Queer Street and could pause for breath. 

As she did so she heard a quick patter behind her, and in 
another second Lion was by her side. 

With a cry of joy the child dropped on her knees, and, seizing 
his head, kissed him passionately. 

' Oh, Lion, you'll take care of me, won't you ?' she moaned. 
' I shall never go back home again. He would kill us both.' 

The huge brute wagged his tail, then, looking up into his little 
mistress's face, licked her cheek gently. 

It was lucky for Gertie that they were in a dark, quiet corner, 
where there was little traffic, or they would have had a crowd 
round them. 

As it was, Gertie felt safe directly Lion was with her, and, 
wiping away her tears, hurried along towards Oxford Street. 

She wanted to get out into a main thoroughfare and ask some- 
one the nearest way to Miss Adrian's. 

Josh Heckett, bleeding and half -mad with rage, ran down the 
stairs after Gertie. As he did so the dog followed him, and, 
rushing past him, bounded out of sight. 

The old man's first impulse was to follow the fugitives. 

But he remembered his treasures lay unguarded upstairs. 

' Curse her !' he growled. ' Let her go. She'd ha' robbed me ; 
that's what she'd ha' done. And arter all these years as I've been a 
good friend to her, too ! She wasn't on that lay alone, though. 
Some of my pals has got scent of my cupboard and put her up 
to this. It's lucky I spotted the game in time.' 

Heckett convinced himself that he had fallen on some scheme 
to rob him, and he determined to nip it in the bud. All that 
night he lay with a loaded pistol under his head, and the next 
morning he made arrangements to sell his busines, and to move 
his ' traps ' to fresh diggings. 

' The gal can go out to sarvice and earn her own livin' ; and a 
good job,' he said to himself ; ' she was getting in the way as it 
was.' 

But having made his arrangements, and his anger against 
Gertie having cooled down a little, he began to wonder where 
she could have gone to. 

Then, with the cunning of his class, he concluded that she 



io8 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

would go to the person who had instigated her to examine his 
hidden treasure. 

' I'll find her somehow,' he said ; ' and then I shall see who's 
playing double with Josh Heckett. Whoever it is '11 pay for it 
pretty handsome before I've done with 'em.' 



CHAPTER XXI. 

GURTII EGERTON BECOMES AMBITIOUS. 

Mr. Gurtii Egerton, immediately after ho had decided to re- 
sume his earthly career and cease to be a ghost or a drowned 
passenger of the Bon Espoir, was much exercised in his mind as 
to what course he should pursue. 

He was tired of travelling about, and he was anxious to 
settle down and become a useful and ornamental member of 
society. 

The vague memory of that fatal night, which the thought 
of appalling death had revived, had vanished once more with 
safety. He was quite satisfied now that the man to whom, 
in a moment of superstitious weakness, he had confided his 
secret had passed to where he could do him no earthly mis- 
chief. 

The threat made by the clergyman, amid such dramatic sur- 
roundings, to bring him to justice if possible, had lingered long 
in his mind ; but the impression was weakened as time went 
on, and now that every fear from that quarter was removed, 
Ralph's heir felt that he had undisputed possession of his 
inheritance, and the best thing he could do was to enjoy it and 
turn it to some account. 

From the moment he found himself a rich man by Ralph's 
death, he had carefully avoided all intercourse with his old com- 
panions. Birnie was the only one he kept up a friendship with, 
and Birnie's friendship was a thing he was bound not only to 
accept but to cultivate. 

No word had ever passed the doctor's lips that would even 
imply that he suspected Gurth of the blow from the consequences 
of which the whole party had been shielded by his presence of 
mind and fertility of resource. 

Immediately after the occurrence Gurth, a prey to nervous 
dread, had rushed away to the sea-coast, leaving his address with 
Birnie, and he had remained away until a letter from the doctor 
brought him to town to attend the funeral. 

They had a short interview then, and Birnie said very little. 
He simply explained to Gurth that his cousin was dead, that his 
certificate had been accepted, and that, as the head of the family, 
it was incumbent upon him to take his position at once and ar- 
range his cousin's affairs. 



CURTH EGERTON BECOMES AMBITIOUS. 109 

Nothing in the words, but something in the look and manner 
plainly showed (.Jurth l-'gerton that Birnie must be his friend if 
he wanted to enjoy himself. 

lie was profuse in his thanks to the doctor for his kindness 
to poor liulph, he begged him to remain in the villa where his 
cousin died, and he asked him as a favour to accept an annuity 
out of the estate. He framed a neat little falsehood, setting 
forth that poor Ralph had told him that Birnie had always been 
a friend of his, and that if anything happened to him he should 
like Birnie not to be forgotten. 

The doctor listened placidly, rubbed his hands gently, declared 
he didn't desire it, but, as Gurth put it in a sentimental way, out of 
respect to his dead friend's memory he would accept the proffered 
benefits. 

He had never asked for anything, he had never thrown out a 
hint that he knew anything and must be paid for secrecy ; every- 
thing had been spontaneous on Gurth's part, and therefore Birnie 
need have no hesitation in sharing in the sudden good fortune of 
his old comrade. 

When Gurth, feeling restless and not knowing what to do, at 
last made up his mind to travel about the world, revisiting town 
only at long intervals, he again came to Birnie, as his best friend, 
and talked matters over with him. 

Birnie suggested that someone in whom he had perfect confi- 
dence should be left executor ; and what was more natural than 
that Gurth should immediately appoint him ? In whose hands 
could his affairs be so safe ? Thus Birnie was duly left executor, 
and Grigg and Limpet were appointed his solicitors, in order to 
relieve the doctor of any responsibility. 

Birnie had never asked for this arrangement, therefore he 
could accept it with a good grace. Birnie was a man who never 
asked for what he wanted. But somehow or other he generally 
got it. When, after his supposed death at sea, Gurth turned up 
again in the flesh, Birnie gave him a hearty welcome, and they 
renewed their old friendship. From the first moment the Turvey 
ghost-story came to his ears, the doctor formed a decided opinion 
that Egerton was among the saved and keeping out of the way 
for some reason of his own. But he kept his opinion to himself, 
and professed to be as astonished as anyone when the ghost 
turned out to be real flesh and blood. 

Birnie was doing very well, with his house rent free, his an- 
nuity, and a steadily improving practice, and he was quite con- 
tent that Gurth should keep him out of his executorship for a 
good many years yet. A vulgar-minded person might have sug- 
gested that Gurth alive was, perhaps, worth quite as much to the 
doctor as Gurth dead. The doctor would have repelled the idea 
with virtuous indignation. All he got from Gurth was given 
freely and unsolicited. The Birnie conscience was as clear as 
crystal in that particular. 



tio ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

The resurrection of Egerton did not, as I have said, disturb 
the doctor's equanimity an atom, but the resurrection of another 
of his old comrades did. 

Birnie would as soon have met the devil as Edward Marston. 
Gurth was rich and useful. There the spirit of camaraderiew&s 
strong in the Birnian soul. But Marston was poor and detri- 
mental ; under such circumstances old friendship was a thing Dr. 
Birnie would prefer to forget. 

Marston, however, was not the man to allow himself to be for- 
gotten. Needing an old friend when his fortune was at a low 
ebb, he turned to the one Providence, flung in his way and made 
use of him. 

He was moderate — far more moderate than Birnie had ex- 
pected. He took £500, certainly, but he came for no more. All 
the favours he asked from the doctor after that were quite remote 
from financial ones. 

Birnie hated Marston, because he felt he was dangerous. He 
was a link with a time Birnie would much rather forget. Further, 
Marston was unscrupulous, and he never knew to what extent 
he might not trade on the secrets of the past. 

Old Heckett was another of his betes noires, but he was civil 
to him for the sake of peace. Now and again, during the years 
that had elapsed since Ralph's death, Heckett had come for a 
loan, pretending he was hard up, and he had had it ; but the old 
man had been given pretty plainly to understand that if he took 
liberties things might be made uncomfortable for him. 

The balance of power was certainly on Birnie's side in Heckett's 
case. The relative position of the men left the one completely 
master of the other. 

But, with regard to Marston, Birnie knew positively nothing, 
except that he had left the country in a hurry and gone to 
America, where it was fondly hoped he had broken his neck long 
ago. 

When, at the interview in which he requested an introduction 
to Grigg and Limpet, Marston mentioned his intention of look- 
ing up Egerton, Birnie was vexed. He had very good reasons 
for wishing to keep Egerton away from Marston's influence if 
he wanted to retain his own. 

More than that, he feared that Marston might have designs 
upon Egerton's banking account, and he determined, if possible, 
to stop the meeting. 

Marston, however, had been too quick for him. He had 
seen Gurth, and had a long chat with him before Birnie 
arrived. 

The doctor was agreeably surprised to find that no money 
had been asked for. On the contrary, Marston had informed 
his former comrade that he had been remarkably lucky, was 
doing well, and hoped to permanently establish himself in 
this country. His ambition was to make a fortune as a 



GURTH EGERTON BECOMES AMBITIOUS, in 

financier, and eventually enter Parliament and shine in the 
political world. 

When Egerton told Birnie this the latter was honestly asto- 
nished. 

He had expected Marston to represent himself as poor and 
unfortunate, and make a demand for substantial help. 

He listened open mouthed to Gurth's narrative, but offered no 
remark. However astonished Birnie might be, he never confessed 
it. For a man to be astonished is for him to see or hear some- 
thing unexpected. Birnie prided himself upon being prepared 
for anything that might happen. 

The next best thing to having any gift or virtue is to pretend 
to have it. Birnie owed much of his later success in life to con- 
stantly bearing this maxim in mind. 

Marston's interview with Gurth Egerton had a great effect, 
though it was quite contrary to what Birnie had supposed it 
would be. 

For years Egerton had wavered, unable to decide upon any 
course in life. Suddenly the ambitious views of an old comrade 
opened out a new vista before him. 

Here was a man who had led a roving life, who had been under 
a cloud for years — a man whom Egerton had known to be in the 
very depths of poverty — here was this adventurer, Edward Mar- 
ston, without fortune and without position, boldly aiming at 
both, and not hesitating to aspire to political fame. 

If Marston could do all this with no advantages, what could 
not he, Gurth Egerton, do with the money at his command ? 

Here, at last, was an aim in life. He would put all the old 
foolish fears behind him and be somebody. The fortune for 
which he had dared and endured so much should be of some use 
to him. Ten years of his life had been wasted .. He would make 
up for the lost time, and take a place in society. It had been 
his ambition in the early days of his penury to be a great man, 
admired, caressed, and feted. When wealth came to his grasp 
the ambition faded away, overgrown by a new set of sensations 
altogether. • 

But the bold words of Marston called the faded fancies into 
new life. Yes, here was something to live for— fame, position. 
In the pursuit of them he could forget the past. 

He paced the library, thinking aloud, for an hour. 

Mrs. Turvey, passing down the stairs, heard him, and muttered 
to herself that master seemed uneasier in his conscience than 
ever. 

But Mrs. Turvey was wrong. Conscience was torpid for the 
present. Ambition had taken possession of Gurth Egerton and 
there was room for nothing else. Conscience and ambition are 
bad companions. One always lags behind and holds the other 
back, 



112 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Gurth Egerton walked himself tired, and then sat down and 
shut his eyes and looked into the future. 

He saw himself married to a charming wife, his house 
filled with gay company, his name in the papers, and his doings 
on every tongue. He saw himself loved, honoured, and power- 
ful. 

It was late in the afternoon when Egerton sat down to think. 
He sat thinking and dreaming till the shadows deepened and 
darkness crept gently over the room. 

' I will take a position in the world !' he exclaimed, rising and 
pacing the room. ' There is nothing to stand between me and 
my ambition now. 

As he uttered the last words he paused opposite the win- 
dow and gazed out into the street below, in which the dim 
light of the gas-lamps was struggling with the deepening 
shadowr. 

He looked out into the quiet street with eyes that wan- 
dered far beyond into a world where he was famous and 
beloved. 

And as he gazed there crept up the street, between him 
and his ideal future, a little girl followed by a big mastiff dog. 



CHAPTEE XXII. 

MR. JABEZ DISSEMBLES. 

' La ! Mr. Jabez, what a time it is since you called !' said Mrs. 
Turvey, with a toss of the head that sent her cap awry 

Mr. Jabez, who had come to see Mr. Egerton on behalf of the 
firm, and was thus apostrophized in the hall by ' the guardian 
angel of the house' (the title Mr. Duck had himself conferred 
on her in a poetic flight), felt very uncomfortable. He shone 
still, but very weakly ; his shine was like the second-hand 
business that the sun indulges in between a snow and a thunder- 
storm on a modern midsummer day. He stammered out some- 
thing about business, and went very hot and red, and was 
intensely relieved when Mr. Egerton called over the bannisters 
to him. 

' Come up, Duck,' said Mr. Egerton ; and Duck did go up, two 
stairs at a time. 

Mrs. Turvey looked after him. 

' So, Mr. Jabez Duck,' she muttered, ' you're too busy to call, 
are you ? — and you haven't a word to say for yourself. A 
pretty fine thing, indeed, after coming here to tea week after 
week, and me a-buying muffins and Sally Lungs, and delicacies 
no end for you, and then to be treated like this. But you've 
got hold of the wrong sort, Mr. Jabez Duck, I can tell you. I 



I\JR. JABEZ DISSEMBLES. 1 1 3 

ain't one o' them slips o' gals as is to be made a fool of, and 
played fast and loose with.' 

It was. perhaps, hardly necessary for Mrs. Turvey to state that 
she was not a slip of a girl. No one could have brought such an 
accusation against her. 

To tell the truth, the love affairs of Jabez and Susan had not 
progressed lately so satisfactorily as could be wished by the lady. 
Up to the time of Mr. Egerton's sudden reappearance in the 
land of the living, Jabez had been most assiduous. The wooing, 
it is true, had not been very long or very romantic — they 
were past the age of ' linked sweetness long drawn out ' — but 
it would be impossible to say that the courting had been devoid 
of poetry. 

Jabez had inundated the lady with poetry. Susan had a nice 
little collection of Jabez's poems upstairs. ' I wish he wouldn't 
write such rigmaroles,' she said one day, as she tried to under- 
stand a ' Sonnet to my Susan,' which Jabez sent on a sheet of 
Grigg and Limpet's headed note, and which he assured her he 
had composed with his window open, gazing at the stars, and 
thinking of her. Mrs. Turvey, reading the following, might well 
require time to consider what it meant : 

SONNET TO MY SUSAN. 

The stars are in the sky, Susan, 

And I am sitting here ; 
Eut you are in my eye, Susan, 

Among the moonbeams clear. 

My heart your image holds, Susan, 

And will the while it beats, 
All through the winter colds, Susan, 

As well as summer heats. 

I think of you by morn, Susan, 

I think of you by night, 
My love, oh, do not scorn, Susan, 

My hopes, oh, do not blight ! 

The bullseye of my soul, Susan, 

Thy dart of love has struck, 
And while the ages roll, Susan, 

I'll be your Jabez Duck. 

This was only one of the ' rigmaroles ' in writing which Jabez 
had beguiled the time of Grigg and Limpet, which hung heavily 
on his hands — too heavily to be relieved by anything but verse. 
Now all of these ' rigmaroles,' full of poetical declarations, Mrs. 
Turvey, being a wise woman, had treasured, and Mr. Duck was 
r ainfully aware of the fact. 

ThiDgs had altered considerably with the reappearance of Mr. 

o 



H4 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Egerton. Susan still remained — but where was her legacy ? 
Jabez was a poet, but there was quite enough prose in his com- 
position to appreciate the difference between Mrs. Turvey plus 
five hundred pounds and Mrs. Turvey pure and simple. 

Pure Mrs. Turvey was, but perhaps simple is hardly the 
word to apply to her. Jabez declared that she was anything 
but simple when she gave him a bit of her mind that morn- 
ing as he came down from his interview with the master. 
She put the case very neatly indeed ; Grigg and Limpet couldn't 
have put it better. Jabez had proposed and been accepted. 
Mrs. Turvey was anxious to give up housekeeping for some one 
else and take to it on her own account ; and, having been led to 
believe that she would be Mrs. Duck, she was not inclined to be 
disappointed. 

As a business woman, Mrs. Turvey put it very plainly to Mr. 
Duck as a business man. If within a specified time he was not 
prepared to carry out his contract, Mrs. Turvey would consult 
Messrs. Grigg and Limpet, and appeal to a jury of her fellow- 
countrymen. 

' And if them rigmaroles of yours as I've got upstairs, every 
one on 'em a-breathin' love and nightingales, and stars and things, 
ain't evidence enough to convict a man of horse-stealing, my 
name ain't Susan Turvey.' 

Why Mrs. Turvey should imagine that stealing her heart was 
horse-stealing I can't say. She was given to a confusion of 
metaphors. But Jabez had no difficulty in apprehending her 
meaning. The situation which the indignant Susan conjured up 
to his mind, of Grigg and Limpet being instructed to commence 
an action for breach against their own clerk, and, worst of all, 
the idea of his letters being read in court, so thoroughly overcame 
him, that he could only give two short gasps for breath and 
stagger down the steps. 

When he got out of sight of Mrs. Turvey standing like Nemesis 
at the front door, he paused and wiped the perspiration from his 
face. 

' My poems,' he murmured, ' and in full court. Published in 
all the papers. Here's a pretty mess I'm in !' 

Once Mr. Jabez had had dreams of publishing his poems ; now 
there was a chance of his dream being gratified, but it was Dead 
Sea fruit. 

He walked on, a prey to a variety of emotions. Gradually he 
worked himself into a rage. 

1 It's all that cursed Egerton !' he exclaimed, giving the firm's 
client an imaginary kick. ' Why didn't he stop at the bottom 
of the sea, instead of turning up in this Coburg melodrama 
style ? He robbed me of £500 and let me in for a breach.' 

The more Mr. Duck thought of the grievous injury which 
Gurth Egerton had inflicted on him, the more annoyed he 
became. Susan's £500 was just the little capital Jabez wanted 



MR. JABEZ DISSEMBLES. 1 1 5 

to make a start in life on his own account, in a line for 
which he had always had a fancy. Now, not only was that 
rudely dashed from his grasp, but Susan remained on his 
hands. 

All day long Mrs. Turvey's threat rang in his ears. He got 
trying to remember what the poems were about. He regretted 
now that he had let the divine afflatus run him into so many 
extravagances of diction. He felt that as a poet he had said more 
than he meant as a man. 

It would never do to let those poems come out. Never. There 
was but one alternative. He must marry the lady to whom they 
were addressed, and thus make them his property again, unless — 
well, unless he could get possession of the poems without taking 
possession of the owner. 

Could he ? 

That was the question. 

Mr. Jabez had been brought up to the law, and he knew what 
he might do and what he might not do. He would do a good 
deal to get those letters back again. He sat down in the office 
with a deed in front of him, which he was expected to read, but 
his thoughts were elsewhere. They were on a deed of daring in 
which he was the hero. Idea after idea floated through his brain. 
"Wills and valuable documents he had seen abstracted by the 
score in dramas and comedies, but then the purloiner only had 
to walk from the wings and enter r. u. e. or l. tj. e., as the case 
might be. There was no front-door to be got through without 
ringing the bell ; no owner of the property handy to call the 
police. Dramatic authors always keep the coast so beautifully 
clear for their evil-doers. 

If, however, Mr. Jabez was constrained, after consideration, to 
abandon all idea of imitating the heroes of melodrama in their 
wilder flights of daring, his thoughts had not wandered in that 
direction quite in vain. From the villain of the domestic drama 
he determined at least to take a hint. That interesting per- 
sonage does not generally go about his nefarious deeps openly. 
He dissembles. 

That was exactly what Jabez determined to do. Instead of 
rushing headlong into the imminent deadly breach — breach of 
promise — he would bide his time and dissemble. 

He commenced dissembling that very evening, by calling on 
his way home and assuring Mrs. Turvey that her accusations 
were quite unjust, and that he should be happy to eat the pike- 
let of peace and drink the tea of tranquillity with her whenever 
she would condescend to invite him. 

Mrs. Turvey was partially appeased, and exerted herself to 
win the wanderer back again. Jabez had no reason to complain 
of the result of his first essay in the art of dissembling. 

He learned where Susan kept his letters. 

8-2 



n6 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

CHAPTER XXIII. 

THE ADRIANS AT HOME. 

The home of Ruth Adrian was not altogether a happy one, and 
yet her father and mother idolized her, and were both very 
worthy and lovable people. 

Mr. Adrian was a kind-hearted old gentleman, who had made 
enough in trade to enable him to retire, and live modestly in a 
sixty pound a year house, keep two servants, and go out of town 
for a month once a year. He had been out of business some 
years, and was prepared to pass the rest of his life quietly with 
the Times newspaper, half-price after four o'clock, and the books 
of a non-fictional character which he borrowed from the local 
circulating library. 

Perhaps ' non-fictional ' is hardly the word to apply, for Mr. 
Adrian's favourite literature was travel and exploration, and 
travellers and explorers of all ages and all times, more especi- 
ally of modern times, have found fiction a by no means to 
be despised element in their veracious and soul-stirring narra- 
tives. 

Mr. Adrian had had but one romance in his life. He had fallen 
in love with a beautiful girl, and fancied once that his passion 
was returned. He woke from his dream to find his lady-love 
the affianced wife of a successful rival, a country gentleman 
named Heritage. He had got over the blow and found another 
wife. Having devoted his youth and manhood to commerce, he 
had never wandered during his short holidays further than the 
coasts of his native isle. In his old age, when he had the leisure, 
he had not the inclination. He had become wedded to a certain 
routine of life ; he liked English food and English habits, and 
was content to read all about foreign countries in the letters of 
4 Our own Correspondent.' 

Europe, even in literature, however, had no great attraction 
for John Adrian. He loved to lose himself in virgin forests and 
jungles, to sup with savages, and dance war-dances with the 
warriors of the Far West. He was at home in the South Sea 
Islands, and familiar with Central Africa. He could tell you 
more about the manners and customs of the Aztecs and the 
Bosjesmans than he could about the peculiarities of his next- 
door neighbour ; and he had the most sublime faith in the per- 
fect veracity of the thousand-and-one books of travel which he 
passed his leisure in devouring. 

Mrs. Adrian, on the contrary, was eminently practical. A 
good-hearted, loving wife, and a fond and devoted mother, 
she was yet, at times, a sore trial both to her husband and 
daughter. 

Mrs. Adrian was eccentric, and prided herself upon her out- 



THE ADRIANS AT HOME. 117 

spokenness ; further, Mrs. Adrian, in spite of much real nobility 
of nature, was mean in small things. Once a busy housewife, 
seeing to everything herself, and trotting about her house from 
morning to night, she had of late years grown rapidly stout, and 
at last arrived at a state of corpulence which, in conjunction 
with shortness of breath, compelled her to sit still and let Ruth 
superintend the domestic arrangements. It was her infirmity 
of body, doubtless, which gradually developed an infirmity of 
temper. Mrs. Adrian in her young days had been inclined 
to speak her mind and find fault. Now that she had nothing 
else to do, the practice had grown on her, and she was, at times, 
what Mr. Adrian, putting it very mildly, called ' exceedingly 
trying.' 

She would have gone through any discomfort, she would have 
sacrificed any pleasure, really to promote the happiness of those 
she loved ; and yet she found her principal occupation in 
grumbling at what they did, and rendering them occasionally as 
uncomfortable as she could. 

Mrs. Adrian looked with anything but an approving eye on 
Ruth's missionary work. In her plain-spoken way she shot many 
little arrows at her daughter which went home. 

One evening after tea the Adrians were seated round the table. 
Mr. Adrian was deep in the marvellous adventures of a gentle- 
man who had spent a year in Patagonia, and Mrs. Adrian was 
knitting. 

Ruth sat gazing in the fire. For a wonder, she was doing 
nothing. Both her mother and father had noticed a change in 
her for some time past. 

Mrs. Adrian, looking up from her knitting, and noticing the 
far-away look on her daughter's face, spoke her mind on the 
subject. 

' What's the matter with you, Ruth ? Why don't you do 
something instead of sitting mumchancing there, staring at the 
fire as if you expected to see somebody walk out of it ? I hope 
you're not going to sit like that long. It gives me the creeps.' 

Ruth coloured, and picked up the work which had fallen into 
her lap. 

' I beg your pardon, mother dear,' she said softly ; ' I was 
thinking.' 

' Well, my dear, I could see that ; but you can think with- 
out looking like a death's head at an evening party. It's my 
idea you've something on your mind. What do you think, 
John ?' 

' Eh, my dear ? What do you say ?' asked Mr. Adrian, look- 
ing up from his book. 

' I said, if you'd leave those blessed Paddygonians you're always 
talking about ' 

Patagonians, my dear.' 

1 Oh, bother !— Pat and Paddy, it's the same thing. If you'd 



ri8 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

leave them and look at your own flesh and blood, you'd be doing 
your duty as a father better ' 

' What's the matter now, my dear ?' 

' Matter ? Why, you oughtn't to ask. Look at your daughter 
— she's thin, she's pale, she's listless. It's my opinion she's 
killing herself over this mission work, as she calls it — worry- 
ing herself about a pack of ungrateful varmints that would 
take a track from her with one hand and pick her pocket with 
the other.' 

Ruth could never convince her mother that her missionary 
labours did not consist in giving tracts. The old lady would 
recognize no other process of visiting the poor. 

' Mother,' she said gently, ' you wrong my poor friends very 
much.' 

' That's right, Ruth ; prefer ragged ragamuffins to your 
mother. If that's your religion, I'm sorry for you. If you've 
got a tract on honouring your father and mother, I'd recom- 
mend you to read it. Wrong your friends, indeed ! What 
are they ? A grateful lot, I dare say. Give you all they've 
got, my dear, wouldn't they ? Well, as all they've got generally 
is a fever and a few specimens of natural history, I dare say they 
would.' 

Ruth coloured, and looked pained. 

' Don't tease the girl so, Mary,' said Mr. Adrian, looking up 
from his book. ' She isn't well, and you worry her.' 

Ruth cast a grateful look at her father, and then crossed the 
room, and, stooping down over her mother, stopped the sharp 
retort that was rising to her lips with a kiss. 

Mr. Adrian took advantage of the pause. 

' Just listen to this. It's really very wonderful. Fancy, the 
Patagonians always sleep with their mouths open. The Rev. 
Mr. Jones ascertained it for a fact, and he gives the following 
interesting description of it.' 

' Don't, John, for goodness' sake !' exclaimed Mrs. Adrian, 
freeing herself from Ruth's embrace. ' Have your Patagonians, 
and welcome, but don't bother me with them. All I can say is, 
if the Rev. Mr. Jones went all the way to Patagonia to see the 
natives keep their mouths open, he'd have done more good by 
stopping in Whitechapel and teaching the natives there to keep 
their mouths shut.' 

'My dear,' said the old gentleman, smiling, 'if you are so 
very caustic, I shall have to collect your observations and publish 
them.' 

'Ob, I know what I say is ridiculous in your eyes, John. If 
I was a Patagonian woman, with a ring through my nose, you'd 
listen fast enough, I dare say, though I did talk in an outlandish 
language.' 

' The Patagonian women, my dear Mary, do not wear rings 
through their noses. Mr. Jones, who lived among them ' 



THE ADRIANS AT HOME. 119 

' More shame for him ! I dare say he left his wife and 
children to the parish.' 

Mr. Adrian was fairly roused on his favourite subject. He 
rushed with ardour to the defence of the Rev. Mr. Jones and the 
ladies of Patagonia. 

Mrs. Adrian replied with all the homely sarcasm of which she 
was mistress. 

Ruth, who knew of old that the duel would probably rage till 
supper-time, or till Mr. Adrian, exhausted, resigned the Pata- 
gonians to their fate, and sought refuge in the Times' City article 
— a neutral ground, which Mrs. Adrian allowed him to enjoy in 
peace — was about to creep out and have a quiet half -hour in her 
little room by herself, when the servant entered with an an- 
nouncement that a ' young person and a dawg ' were at the door, 
asking for Miss Ruth. 

Ruth started up, and her cheeks went a burning crimson. It 
was Gertie come to warn her that Marston was in danger. What 
should she do ? 

She stammered something, and was about to leave the room 
and go out to Gertie, when Mrs. Adrian stopped her. 

' Ruth !' 

' Yes, mother.' 

' If it's one of those horrid people you visit, don't let her come 
in. We don't want fevers here.' 

' Oh, mother, there's no fear of that. It's little Gertie 
Heckett.' 

' What, the model child of Seven Dials ? Take your father's 
overcoat out of the hall at once.' 

' Mother !' exclaimed Ruth, reddening, ' how cruel you are ! I 
shall bring her in, and you shall see her.' 

' I shall have to sprinkle the room with camphor if you do. I 
expect we shall all be murdered in our beds ; that'll be the end 
of your encouraging all these bad characters.' 

Ruth was out of the room and in the hall before her mother 
could finish the sentence. 

Gertie, shamefaced, trembling, and red-eyed, stood in the 
hall ; Lion was close by her side, motionless as a statue. Ho 
wagged his tail as Ruth came towards him, but he never barked. 
He was a well-bred dog, and knew how to behave in a lady's 
house. 

Ruth stooped down and kissed the poor trembling little one, 
and tried to put her at her ease. All was so new and strange 
to her, and the excitement of the last two hours had been so 
great, that Gertie was quite unnerved. She attempted to 
speak, and then the pent-up emotion found an outlet. Sobbing 
hysterically, she fell on her knees and asked Ruth to protect 
her. 

Ruth was deeply moved herself ; the genuine grief of the child 



120 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

and her quick sobs told her that Gertie had gone through much 
that evening. 

' There, there, don't be afraid, Gertie,' she said, wiping away 
the little one's tears and patting Lion's head gently. ' Lion and 
I will take care of you, won't we, Lion ?' For the moment, in 
her sympathy with the child, she had forgotten herself ; but it 
Avas only for a moment. 

Looking round nervously at the half -open sitting-room door, 
s-he whispered to the child, 'Have you heard anything about 
Mm?' 

' Yes, miss, I have.' 

Between her sobs, and in a low voice, Gertie told her little 
story, never stopping till she had explained how her grandfather 
had threatened her life, and how she would never dare to go 
back again. 

The child felt, even as she spoke, that she was playing the 
traitor — that she was revealing a secret which might bring harm 
to him who had brought her up and fed her, and who was the 
only relative she bad in the world. 

She was shrewd enough to see all this, and when her tale 
was done she looked up beseechingly in the face of her pro- 
tectress. 

' I've done this for your sake, miss,' she said ; ' but you won't 
let any harm come to grandfather through what I've told you, will 
you ?' 

' No, Gertie, I won't ; I promise you. And now you must 
come in and speak to my father and mother, and we must 
see what can be done with you. Come along ; don't be 
frightened.' 

Ruth took her by the hand. 

' Please may Lion come too ?' asked Gertie, laying her hand 
on the dog's head, as though loth to leave him for a minute. 

' Certainly, my dear ! Come along, Lion.' 

When Ruth entered the sitting-room, leading Gertie, and fol- 
lowed by the hugs mastiff, Mrs. Adrian gave a little scream. 

' Good gracious, Ruth !' she cried, 'what will you bring into 
the house next ?' 

' Don't be frightened, mother. Lion's very gentle. Lie down, 
Lion! 

Gertie nodded to Lion, as much as to say he might obey Miss 
Adrian. At his little mistress's signal he sank down on his 
haunches, and, with his ears up and his eyes open, waited for 
further orders. What he thought of the proceedings it is im- 
possible to say ; but he had evidently made up his mind that 
Gertie was among friends, for he didn't even growl when Mrs. 
Adrian called him a ferocious-looking beast, and horrified Gertie 
by asking how many people he usually ate at a zaeal. 

"With sundry reservations, Ruth told Gertie's story for her, 



THE ADRIANS AT HOME. 121 

and then she begged that for the present, at least, she might be 
allowed to offer the child the shelter of their roof. 

Mr. Adrian's kind heart went out to the poor little child who 
had remained so simple and so gentle amid such surroundings, 
and he was as interested in her as though she had been a young 
Patagonian or a small South Sea Islander. He gave his consent 
directly. 

Mrs. Adrian was not so easily mollified. She was sure that it 
was a plot, that robbers would come in the night, and that Gertie 
was to get up and let them in. Then she insisted that the child 
had various infectious complaints. But at last, having exhausted 
her objections, and made out fully to her own satisfaction that 
she was being turned out of house and home by a juvenile male- 
factor and a bloodthirsty mastiff, she gave her consent, and, 
having given it, was condescending enough to acknowledge pri- 
vately to her daughter later on that Gertie was an interesting 
little thing, and much to be pitied. 

That night Gertie slept with Ruth, and Lion, with much coax- 
ing, was persuaded to accept the hospitable offer of the mat out- 
side the door. 

To Gertie all was new and strange, and the momentous events 
of the evening had not been without a disturbing influence on 
her mind ; but Gertie was a child, and soon fell asleep. 

Happy childhood, when nothing that happens can banish sweet 
sleep from our eyelids ! How many of us, grown to man's estate, 
would give all that such an estate confers upon us for the privi- 
lege of closing our eyes and forgetting as easily and as quickly 
as Gertie Heekett forgot all that happened to her during the most 
eventful day in her little life ! 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

OLD SWEETIIEAKT3. 

Ruth Adrian had only gathered from what Gertie had told her 
that Marston was in danger of being betrayed by his companions. 
The child had heard but a portion of the conversation, and even 
all of that she could not remember. 

Ruth concluded that Marston had been mixed up in something 
that was, she feared, discreditable, and that he was to be made a 
scapegoat. 

If this was so, the sooner he was warned the better. But how 
was she to warn him ? She did not even know where he lived, 
and before she could find out it might be too late. ^ 

He might be living under an assumed name ; a hundred 
reasons might prompt him to conceal his identity. What was 
she to do ? 

At breakfast she was pale and absent-minded. Her mother 



122 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

noticed it, and taxed her with wilfully destroying her health by 
worrying about a pack of vagabonds. 

Poor Gertie was the ' pack of vagabonds.' Fortunately the 
child had been relegated to the kitchen by Mrs. Adrian's express 
command, and did not hear the good lady's opinion of her. This 
did not decrease Ruth's perplexities. She foresaw a constant 
source of dispute in poor Gertie's presence. Her mother's heart 
was large, but her tongue was bitter ; and although doubtless 
she really heartily sympathised with the child's friendless and 
forlorn condition, she would none the less make her a constant 
target for her arrows. 

She determined, therefore, to find, if possible, some nice re- 
spectable person with whom Gertie could be placed for a while, 
and taught to make herself useful. Ruth would pay what she 
could out of her pocket-money, and she was sure her papa would 
help her, though Gertie was not a Patagonian nor a South Sea 
Islander, but only a poor little English outcast. 

' What do you intend to do with this white elephant of yours, 
Ruth ?' said her mother presently. 

Ruth looked up vacantly. 

' White elephant, mother ? What white elephant ?' 

< This child.' 

Mr. Adrian laughed. 

' Rather a baby white elephant, Ruth, isn't she ?' he said. 
' And she comes without her trunk.' 

' John, don't make foolish remarks. It's no laughing matter,' 
exclaimed the mistress of the house. ' I'm not going to have this 
turned into a Reformatory or a Home for Lost Dogs for any- 
body. It isn't respectable.' 

' I'm sure the child's respectable enough, or Ruth wouldn't 
have anything to do with her.' 

' Well, she has more clothes on than your favourite people 
wear, I confess, and I dare say she won't want to eat the 
housemaid or to worship the kitchen fire,' exclaimed Mrs. Adrian ; 
1 but, according to the way I was brought up, she belongs to a 
class of people with which all conversation is best avoided. Her 
friends, I dare say, arc burglars and murderers of the worst 
description.' 

' But mother ' began Ruth. 

' Don't argue,- my dear. It's no use. I dare say Miss — Miss 
what's her name — Miss Heckett is a little angel of purity and 
virtue — a paragon reared in the Dials ; but as your mother I 
respectfully decline to have her under my roof. You must send 
her away.' 

' I will, mother,' answered Ruth, a shade of annoyance in her 
tone. ' I'll find a home for the poor child to-day.' 

' There are plenty of refuges and reformatories, I'm sure, 
where they'd be glad to take her. There are places advertised 
in the paper every day.' 



OLD SWEETHEARTS. 123 

' You shan't be troubled with her long, mother.' 

Ruth took up the paper as she spoke, and began to read the 
advertisement-sheet. 

She had a dim idea that she might find some place adver- 
tised which would afford her little i>roteg6e a temporary- 
asylum. 

Glancing listlessly over the advertisements, she suddenly gave 
a little cry, and her face flushed crimson. 

' Whatever's the matter now, Ruth ?' asked Mrs. Adrian, 
pouring tea into the slop-basin instead of her cup in her astonish- 
ment. 

' Nothing !' stammered Ruth ; ' nothing at all !' 

She endeavoured to hide her confusion, and kept her face 
behind the paper, reading one paragraph over and over again : 

' Lost, a pocket-book containing a cheque. Anyone bringing 
the same to Mr. Edward Marston, Eden Villa, Road, Cam- 
den Road, will be handsomely rewarded.' 

Could it be the same Edward Marston ? 

Ruth firmly believed that it was. It seemed as though Provi- 
dence had shaped events so that she might read the paper, and 
thus find at once a means of communication with the man she 
wished to save. 

Perhaps, after all, the conversation Gertie had heard was con- 
nected with this very cheque. It might have been stolen from 
him by Heckett and his companions. 

She went downstairs and questioned Gertie, who, with Lion at 
her feet, sat in a Windsor chair, timidly regarding the two ser- 
vants, who eyed her in return with ill-concealed suspicion. 
Gertie assured Ruth that she had heard a plan for getting the 
gentleman out of the way discussed, and that one of the men 
had said, ' We must make London too hot to hold him.' 

Ruth easily allowed herself to be convinced that Marston was 
in real danger. 

She determined to put her scruples on one side, and act at 
once. 

She could trust no one with her secret. She would go herself. 
What harm could come of it ? None. And the good that might 
result was incalculable. 

Between ten and eleven Ruth, deeply veiled, rang the visitors' 
bell at Eden Villa. 

When the servant came to the door and asked her her busi- 
ness, she trembled, and felt inclined to run away. 

Mustering all her courage, and speaking quickly, lest the 
girl should detect her agitation, she asked if Mr. Marston was 
within. 

' I'll see, ma'am,' answered the girl cautiously. ' What 
name ?' 



124 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Say Miss Adrian, on important business.' 

The girl asked Ruth inside the hall, closed the door, and went 
in search of her master. 

Ruth went hot and cold, and trembled violently. A sudden 
revulsion of feeling came on her, and she seized the handle of 
the door to open it and fly. 

At that moment the girl returned and requested Ruth to 
follow her. 

Hardly knowing how she walked across the hall, Ruth obeyed, 
and was shown into an empty room. 

A minute afterwards Marston entered. 

' Miss Adrian,' he said, bowing, ' to what fortunate circum- 
stance am I indebted for this visit ?' 

He spoke in an easy tone of every-day politeness. His ex- 
pressive features belied the indifference he endeavoured to 
assume. 

' I beg your pardon,' gasped Ruth, ' but ' Then her brave 

spirit gave way. Distressed, terrified at the position in which 
she found herself, a thousand old memories of the times past 
rushed upon her, and, bursting into tears, she buried her face in 
her hands. 

In a moment Marston was by her side. 

' Ruth ! dear Ruth !' he exclaimed, ' for Heaven's sake what 
does this mean ? Dare I hope that ' 

Ruth drew away the hand he had seized. 

' Mr. Marston,' she exclaimed passionately, ' it means that I 
was wrong to come here. I came to warn you of a deadly peril. 
Hear me, and let me go.' 

' Ruth, if you have come to tell me of the deadliest peril I 
shall ever be in on this side of the grave, I will welcome it since 
it has brought us face to face once more.' 

Was he acting, this man, or were the impassioned accents in 
which he spoke the honest reflex of his feelings ? 

'Hush!' exclaimed Ruth; 'you must not speak to me like 
that. AVe are strangers.' 

' We have been ; but need we be any longer ? I am not the 
man I was, Ruth. Ten years ago I left England, an adventurer, 
a schemer, a villain, if you will. I return to it to-day with a 
fortune acquired by honest industry, with a home which I cau 
offer without a blush to the woman I would make my wife, with 
a heart cleansed from the old corruption. Oh, Ruth, with God's 
help and yours I could do so much !' 

Ruth stopped him ere he could say another word. 

' Listen to what I have to say, and let me go,' she said, her 
voice trembling and her face deadly pale. ' I have come here 
to tell you that there is a plot against you. A man named 
Heckett ' 

Marston started. He remembered that it was at Heckett's he 
had first seen Ruth after his return. 



OLD SWEETHEARTS. 1:5 

' What do you know of Heckett ?' he said, assuming a careless 
tone. 

' Nothing,' answered Ruth ; ' except that he and some asso- 
ciates of his wish you no good. There is some scheme afloat 
with regard to a cheque and your going to a bank. Mr. Marston, 
if you are linked with these men in any scheme, they will betray 
you. For your own sake, beware of them !' 

' Good gracious, Ruth ! what do you mean ?' 

' I don't know,' exclaimed Ruth, feeling hot and confused. 
' I'm sorry I came. It was wicked and foolish of me. But ' — 
her voice faltered — 'for the sake of old times, believing you 
were in danger, I tried to save you. You know best, perhaps, 
what you have to fear.' 

Ruth turned to go. Marston put out his hand. 

' Ruth, from the bottom of my heart I thank you. But I am 
in no danger. It is most probable these rascals have obtained 
possession of a cheque which was in a pocket-book I lost, and 
your informant, whoever it may be, has overheard their conver- 
sation about that.' 

Ruth flushed scarlet, and a sense of shame came suddenly upon 
her. She saw it all now. Marston was right, and Gertie had 
mistaken what she had heard. Ruth had placed herself in a 
false position. 

She walked towards the door, and would have gone out at once, 
but Marston detained her. 

' Ruth, is there no hope for me ? I have never ceased to love 
you, and I have bitterly atoned for the past. If I prove to you 
and to the world that I am free from reproach, that I am worthy 
your love, may I not see you again ?' 

Ruth shook her head. 

' That dream is over,' she said softly. ' Our paths in life are 
henceforward separate as the poles. 

Marston seized her hand and held it, in spite of her struggle 
to free herself. 

'Listen, Ruth Adrian,' he exclaimed with well-assumed 
earnestness. 'Once before, when my fate trembled in the 
balance, you cast me off. You might have been my salvation 
ten years ago. Now listen to me. Once again I am in the old 
country, free, independent, and ambitious. On you, and you 
alone, depends my future. Cast me off now, and I shall have 
no hope, no anchor. I am in your hands to make or mar. Think 
well of it, Ruth Adrian, and give me your answer when we meet 
again. Till then, God bless you !' 

He stooped down and pressed his lips to hers almost fiercely. 
She tore herself free, and her bosom heaving with indignation, 
her cheeks crimson with shame, she rushed from the room and 
from the house. 

When the door was closed behind her, Marston' s manner altered 



126 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

instantly. A smile passed across his face — a smile of extreme 
self -congratulation. 

' I think I shall win her over yet,' he said softly. ' Poor Ruth ! 
There are a few sparks of the old love left, even in my cold 
heart. I want a wife, too, and she must be a lady. A bachelor 
can't get the right set of people round him. Poor Ruth ! how 
capitally she wears.' 

He paced the room for a minute or two, and then he looked at 
his watch. 

' I must go and warn Heckett,' he said, ' that there's a traitor 
in the camp somewhere. That girl has heard him say some- 
thing, and has told Ruth. That link must be broken, at any 
rate.' 

Marston did not attach any serious importance to what Ruth 
had told him. He gave a shrewd guess at the source of her infor- 
mation and what it was worth. 

Still, as he had further need of Heckett's services, and as 
that worthy's house was, for the present, the centre of some 
rather important operations, he thought it just as well to in- 
vestigate the matter at once. If Miss Gertie was in the habit 
of listening to conversations and reporting them to customers, 
the sooner Miss Gertie had a little change of air and scene the 
better. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

GEORGE HAS ' THE STRAIGHT TIP.' 

George had got on capitally in his situation. He found the 
work remarkably easy, the salary was paid regularly, and he was 
earning the sweet bread of independence — the first he had ever 
tasted in his life. 

He had some vague idea that he wouldn't always be a city 
clerk. He didn't believe that his father's temper would last. 
Eventually, of course, he would be forgiven, the prodigal would 
return by special invitation, plus a Mrs. Prodigal, the fatted calf 
would be killed, and George, having proved that he was of some 
use in the world, and could earn money as well as spend it, 
would settle down to a country life. Bess's father would have 
a nice little cottage somewhere, and everything would come 
right. 

But George was not going to make the first advance. His 
father had cast him off, and cast off he would remain till he was 
sent for. He didn't even let his father know his whereabouts 
or that he was married. Bess wrote once to her father to say 
she was in London and well and happy, and she hoped he would 
have faith in her and believe all she had done was for the best. 
But she gave no address, for George was determined to cut 



GEORGE HAS < THE STRAIGHT TIP! 127 

himself completely adrift from old associations. For the present 
he was Mr. George Smith, and nothing that concerned Mr. 
George Heritage concerned him. 

Bess was very happy ; she would have been happier still if she 
might have told her father all, looked up with unblushing 
cheeks in his dear old face and asked his blessing. 

That was the one thing denied her. But George did his best 
to console her, and Bess believed the world did not hold his 
equal. It seemed sometimes that she was dreaming when her 
face was pressed close to his, and he kissed her and called her 
little wife. She dreaded to wake up and find it all unreal. 

George was sure that had he chosen from the Belgravian con- 
servatories of rare English girlhood he could not have improved 
upon his sweet wildflower of the Surrey hills. Bess was not 
only beautiful and amiable; she was the cleverest little woman 
in the world. It was a treat to watch her sew a button on. She 
no sooner took it between her rosy fingers and tickled it gently 
with the needle than, hey, presto ! there it was as firm as a rock. 
And then her cooking. I should like to know what beautiful 
young lady of society could have come near Bess in the matter 
of pie-crust. No duchess in the land could ever hope to equal 
her haricot mutton ; and I'm quite sure that the united efforts 
of the whole of the upper ten thousand would have failed to 
make a shilling go as far as Bess could make sixpence go. 

One proof of her skill absolutely astonished her husband. He 
saw a very beautiful bonnet in a shop in Regent's Street, and he 
told Bess he should like to buy it for her. 

' You dear old goose,' said his wife ; ' why, you'd have to pay 
three guineas for it !' 

George whistled. He thought that was a great deal of money 
for a small feather, a bunch of roses, and a plain straw. 

Next morning Bess said to him at breakfast, ' George, you 
wanted to make me a present of a three-guinea bonnet yesterday; 
give me ten shillings to spend instead.' 

There was half a sovereign in Bess's plump little hand directly. 

That evening they arranged to go for a stroll to look at the 
shops. Bess went to put on her bonnet, and when she came into 
the parlour George backed into the fireplace with astonish- 
ment. 

Bess had on the beautiful three-guinea bonnet ! 

' Why, how ever did you get it, my dear ?' he said. ' It's 
awfully extravagant !' 

Bess gave a merry little laugh. 

' How much do you think it cost ?' she said. 

' Why, three guineas, of course,' said George. 

' Nonsense, you dear old stupid ! It cost ten shillings !' 

' Did they let you have it for that after all ?' 

' They let me have it ? No. I made it myself, and the ten 
shillings you gave me paid for all the materials.' 



128 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Wonderful !' said George. And all that evening as they 
walked about he felt inclined to stop the ladies and gentlemen 
in the street and exclaim, ' I say, look at this bonnet. Did you 
ever see anything like it ? My wife made it, and it only cost 
ten shillings. Isn't she clever ?' 

George's respect for his wife increased every day as he saw the 
marvels her tiny fingers accomplished. He wished Smith & Co. 
could see her. Once he did go so far as to take Smith & Co. an 
apple turnover which his wife had made ; but it looked so nice 
that, Smith & Co. (per Mr. Brooks, the manager) not arriving 
till late, George ate it himself. 

On the day following the momentous interview between the 
partners in the firm of Smith & Co., George presented himself at 
the office in Gutter Lane. 

Mr. Brooks arrived a little later than usual, and busied him- 
self with some papers at his desk for a while. 

Just before eleven he took a cheque from his pocket-book, 
exclaiming, ' By Jove ! Smith, I'd nearly forgotten it !' 

' Forgotten what, sir ?' said George. 

' Why, I received a cheque from Grigg and Limpet yesterday 
afternoon to buy tallow with for their client on the open market 
to-day.' 

' It isn't too late to buy tallow, is it ?' asked George, 
innocently. 

'No, but they only take gold or notes on the market. You 
must run and cash this at once and bring the money back here. 
It s most important we should operate early.' 

George had heard of surgical operations, but operations on the 
tallow market were mysteries of city life which he had not at 
present penetrated. 

Anxious to acquire information in order to qualify himself for 
commercial eminence, he was about to question Mr. Brooks 
when that gentleman cut him short. 

' Take the cheque at once, Smith ; be back quickly,' he said. 
' Hulloa, it's payable to order ! What a nuisance !' 

' It must be endorsed, mustn't it ?' said George, anxious to 
show what a lot he knew. In the course of his career he had 
had many cheques payable to his order, and he knew where to 
write his name. He wasn't like that innocent major who, 
having lived all his life on discount, assured the financial agent 
who offered to do a three months' bill for him that he didn't 
know how to accept one. 

Mr. Brooks recognized George's business knowledge with a 
pleasant smile. Yes, it did require the name of Smith and Co. 
on the back ; but, a most unfortunate thing, he had sprained his 
thumb, and couldn't write. 

' Here, Smith,' he said, tossing the cheque across to him, 
' just write Smith and Co. on the back for me, will you ?' 

George hesitated. 



GEORGE HAS 'THE STRAIGHT TIP.' 129 

' Is that correct, sir ?' lie asked. 

' Of course it is ! Why, what office have you been brought 
up in ? Any clerk can endorse a firm's signature ; it's quite 
usual in large firms.' 

George coloured to think how he had betrayed his ignorance. 
He hastened to atone for it by endorsing the cheque ' Smith and 
Co.' at once. 

' That's it,' said Mr. Brooks. ' Now off you go, and make 
haste back.' 

George took the cheque and, buttoning it securely in his 
breast-pocket, went off to the bank with it. 

As he went along he fancied that he was followed. He 
couldn't get rid of the idea that a tall dark man with a hook 
nose was watching him. He put his hand on the pocket con- 
taining the cheque and hurried on. 

At the bank where he presented the cheque, to his astonish- 
ment he saw the tall dark man at another desk, and heard him 
inquire about opening an account. 

The cashier took the cheque, cancelled the signature, and 
handed George five hundred-pound notes. 

The dark man concluded his inquiry, and walked hurriedly 
out. 

A little way from the bank George had another surprise. He 
ran up against Mr. Brooks. 

' By Jove ! Smith,' exclaimed the manager, ' we shall be late ! 
I must go straight on to the tallow market. Give me the notes, 
and go back to the office.' 

George handed the notes to the manager, glad to be released 
of the responsibility of carrying them through the crowded city, 
and walked leisurely on to the office. 

Mr. Brooks was evidently in a hurry. The moment he had 
the notes in his possession he walked as fast as he could to the 
Bank of England, and there obtained gold for them. 

Two minutes afterwards he was in a hansom cab, being driven 
rapidly to the other end of London. 

George walked on towards the office, and just as he got to 
Gutter Lane some one tapped him on the shoulder. 

He turned, and beheld to his astonishment the same dark face 
and hook nose that had attracted his attention at the bank. 

' I beg your pardon,' said the stranger ; ' but have you just 
presented a cheque at the bank ?' 

' Yes,' said George ; ' why do you ask ?' 

' I'll tell you,' replied the stranger. ' I'm a detective.' 

George started and coloured. 

' I beg your pardon,' he said, ' but I really can't ses what that 
ha3 to do with it.' 

' I'll tell you. Don't make a fuss ; just listen to me, for what 
I'm going to say is for your good. I want to save you from a 
jolly mess.' 



130 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

What on earth did the man mean ? George had plenty of 
courage, but he really felt alarmed at being talked to like this 
by a detective. 

' You're a green un, I can see,' said the man ; ' and you've 
been made a mug of. You're mixed up with the awfullest set 
of swindlers in London. They'll all be in quod in half an hour ; 
and it's because I see you've been made a mug of I want to give 
you a chance of getting clear.' 

George went hot and cold. Smith and Co. swindlers ! A 
hundred little things, many that he had thought nothing of, now 
rushed back to his memory. A sudden revelation came, and in 
a moment the fabric of commercial eminence he had reared for 
himself fell to the ground. 

' Good heavens !' he exclaimed, as the situation dawned upon 
him, ' I must clear myself, and at once. What can I do ?' 

' Take my advice and do nothing. Hook it. I believe you're 
innocent, or I shouldn't have given you this warning. But you 
wouldn't be able to prove your innocence to a jury. The gang 
you're in is the artfullest in London ; they'd lay it all on you, 
and bring twenty witnesses to prove it. What witnesses to 
character have you got ?' 

' Why, plenty !' began George. Then suddenly he checked 
himself. He had been living under a false name. He had left 
his home in debt and difficulties after quarrelling with his 
father. How could he allow all this to be known to the world ? 
How could he let his father and the people at home come to a 
police court, to find him in the dock with a gang of swindlers ? 

All these considerations flashed through the young man's brain 
with lightning rapidity. Then he thought of Bess, and became 
almost speechless with horror. His position was terrible. 

' I don't know why you tell me this,' he gasped, seizing the 
dark man's arm ; 'but for God's sake tell me what to do ? I 
have a wife and an old father ; for their sakes I would do any- 
thing rather than have my name dragged before the world in a 
case like this.' 

' That's reasonable,' said the man, ' I'm sorry for you, and 
I believe in you. I ought to arrest you, but I shan't. I'm 
going to let you get clear away, and I'll give the missus the tip 
too, and she can follow at once . Where do you live ?' 

George never stopped to ask himself if this sudden interest in 
his affairs on the part of a stranger could be genuine. He saw 
the facts in their ghastly reality, and he clutched at this small 
offer of help as a drowning man clutches at the first thing he 
sees. 

George pulled out a letter from his pocket, and scribbled his 
address on it in pencil. Underneath he wrote : 

' Dear Bess, do what this gentleman tells you. Bring enough 
for a day or two's journey and come to me at once. Don't be 
frightened. It's only a matter of business.' 



GEORGE HAS THE 'STRAIGHT TIP.' 131 

' Take this,' he said, giving it to his unknown friend ; ' and 
tell ine "where to go.' 

' Go to some railway station.' 

' Waterloo ?' said George. ' Will that do ?' 

' Capitally ! Your wife shall be at Waterloo in a couple of 
hours. Say the booking-office. Main line. If you'll take my 
advice you'll leave the country till this affair is over. Mind, 
whatever happens, you must not blab about me giving you the 
tip. It would ruin me. Swear !' 

' I give you my word of honour as a gentleman,' stammered 
the agonized man. ' I owe you more than I can ever repay.' 

' I'm satisfied,' said the dark man. ' I can see you are a 
gentleman, and your word is enough.' 

With a parting admonition to George to ' keep his pecker up 
and show a clean pair of heels,' the mysterious friend turned on 
his heel and walked rapidly away, leaving the young man in a 
state of mind almost impossible to describe. 

Mortification, rage, shame, all struggled for mastery in his 
breast, and all gave way before the horror with which he con- 
templated the consequences to the girl he had brought from her 
happy home and wedded in secret, should he be arrested and 
charged with being one of a gang of swindlers. He was innocent, 
he knew ; but to prove it he would have to drag his honoured 
name through the mire ; he would have to proclaim to the world 
the whole story of his debts and difficulties, his quarrels with 
his father, and his runaway marriage with a lodge-keeper's 
daughter. 

No, he couldn't face that. It might be cowardly, but once he 
had Bess safe in his keeping again, he would take the detective's 
advice and avoid scandal by timely flight. 

The hue and cry for the missing George Smith might be 
raised, but what of that ? Who would connect George Smith, 
the humble clerk who lodged at Duck's, with George Heritage, 
Squire Heritage's son and heir ? 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

PECULIAR BEHAVIOUR OP MR. SETH PREENE. 

Mr. Seth Preene, the amateur detective, hurrying along on 
his mission of love and mercy, chuckled to himself at the ease 
with which he had accomplished his purpose. 

' He is a green un,' he said to himself ; ' grass ain't in it with 
him. I wonder where old Brooks picked him up. He's a 
gentleman, though — genuine goods — hall marked. Nothing o' 
the Brummagem nine-carat there.' 

Mr. Seth Preene had had a good deal of experience among 

9—2 



.'32 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

'swells,' both of the nine-carat Brummagem and of the eighteen- 
carat hall-marked, in the course of his adventurous career, and 
it hadn't taken him long to sum up George Heritage's character. 
' Swell out o' luck, I should fancy,' he said, as he walked along. 

Bess was sitting in the window, sewing, when a hansom cab 
rattled up to the door, and a tall dark gentleman, with a hook 
nose, ran up the steps and knocked. 

' How awkward !' she exclaimed. ' Here's a visitor and Miss 
Duck's out. I shall have to open the door.' 

Bess had all a country girl's fear of opening the door to 
London strangers. She had heard such tales and read such 
things in the newspapers about robberies and murders, that she 
saw a possible petty-larcenist in every tax-collector and a would- 
be assassin in every well-dressed person who came to inquire if 
Mr. Jones or Mr. Brown was an inmate of the house. 

But not having heard or read of robbers and murderers 
dashing up in hansom cabs, with a ready-made witness in the 
driver, Bess summoned up courage to answer the door to this 
visitor. 

' Is Mrs. Smith within ?' asked the gentleman politely. 

Bess turned pale. Something had happened to George at the 
office, perhaps. Had he overworked himself and brought on a 
paralytic stroke ? 

' I am Mrs. Smith,' she stammered. ' Is it anything about my 
husband ?' 

' Don't alarm yourself, my dear madam,' answered the gentle- 
man politely ; ' I've only brought a message from him.' 

Mr. Preene handed Mrs. Smith her husband's hastily scribbled 
note. 

She read it with a vague feeling of alarm. 

' What does it mean ?' she stammered. ' Oh, you are not 
keeping anything from me ? He is not ill ?' 

' You alarm yourself needlessly, I assure you. It is only a 
matter of business. If you will put on your things at once and 
keep the appointment, you will find it is all right.' 

' Are you in his office, sir ?' asked Bess, wondering what she 
should do with no one in the house. 

Here was the opportunity Preene was waiting for. 

' No,' he answered ; ' I come from Grigg and Limpet's — 
Mr. Duck s employers. Smith and Co. have business with our 
firm, and that is where I met your husband. I was coming on 
to see Miss Duck, and he asked me to bring this note at the 
same time.' 

' Oh !' exclaimed Bess, with a sigh of relief. ' Then perhaps 
you'll wait till Miss Duck comes home ? I don't like to leave 
the house with no one in it,' she added apologetically. 

' I must wait,' said Mr. Preene, ' so you are not putting me to 
any inconvenience.' 

Bess was glad to hear it. 



PECULIAR BEHA VIOUR OF SETH PREENE. 133 

As the gentleman had come to see Miss Duck, and knew 
all about Grigg and Limpet, of course she could ask him 
in. 

Mr. Preene stepped in, leaving his hansom waiting. He urged 
Mrs. Smith not to think about him, but to keep the appointment 
at once. 

Bess needed no encouragement. She ran upstairs, put on her 
mantle and bonnet, gathered a few things together, just what 
George's travelling-bag would hold, and, reading her husband's 
letter over again, she hurried out. On the doorstep she turned, 
and once again begged the stranger to assure her that her husband 
was not ill, and that his hasty summons was not worded so as to 
conceal the worst from her. 

Mr. Preene gave the required assurance, bowed her out, and 
closed the door behind her. 

At another time Bess might have hesitated at leaving a stranger 
alone in the house, even though he professed such intimacy with 
the family. But, do what she would, she could not banish the 
idea that the message from George implied something unpleasant 
— something which might prove the first trouble of their short 
and hitherto unclouded married life. 

This thought was uppermost in her mind, and banished all 
other considerations. So she hurried away to Waterloo Station, 
thinking only of George, and not troubling herself to consider 
how the unknown visitor might amuse himself in Mr. Duck's 
deserted residence. 

If she could have witnessed Mr. Preene's behaviour it would 
have surprised her. 

That estimable gentleman had no sooner closed the door care- 
fully than he rushed upstairs and into all the rooms, in order to 
discover which were the apartments lately occupied by Mr. and 
Mrs. Smith. 

A cursory inspection of the first floor satisfied him that he need 
go no further. 

He had little time to lose, for Miss Duck might be back in a 
few minutes, Mrs. Smith had informed him, and Mr, Preene 
particularly wished to conclude his business, and retire without 
any tiresome explanations. 

He looked about the room, then pulled a small parcel from his 
pocket, undid it, and proceeded to secrete the contents about the 
room. 

Under the squab of the sofa he placed three of the blank 
cheques from the book so mysteriously lost by Limpet, junior. 
In a box in the bed-room, under some clothes, he hid a roll of 
sham bank-notes. In an old waistcoat of George's, hanging 
behind the door, he placed a rouleau of spurious sovereigns ; and 
in the cupboard, hidden away behind some boots, he left a small 
brown-paper parcel containing a portion of the stock-in-trade of 
a professional forger. 



134 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Having paid the absent tenants these delicate attentions, 
he left a few more souvenirs of his visit and then hurried 
downstairs, and, pulling the front door gently to, walked rapidly 
away. 

A quarter of an hour later, when Miss Duck returned and let 
herself in with the latchkey, the house was empty. 

Miss Georgina had purchased a bargain at the linendraper's, 
and, Mrs. Smith being an authority on bargains, Georgina 
ran upstairs to display her purchase and ask Mrs. Smith's 
opinion. 

She knocked at the door, and, receiving no answer, opened it, 
and stepped in. 

The rooms were empty. 

' Dear me !' said Miss Georgina ; ' how strange ! She never 
said anything about going out.' 

The afternoon wore away, and Mrs. Smith did not return. 
Evening came and brought Jabez home to his tea, but it 
brought no Mrs. Smith, and, stranger still, it brought no Mr. 
Smith either. 

' Whatever can have become of the Smiths, Jabez ?' said Miss 
Georgina, when tea was cleared away, and the first floor was still 
empty. 

' I don't know, my dear,' answered Mr. Duck. l Perhaps they've 
bolted with the lead off the roof, or the washing out of the back 
garden.' 

' Don't be a fool, Jabez. Can't you talk seriously for a 
moment ?' 

' What a fidget you are, Georgina ! Let the Smiths alone, and 
they'll come home, and bring their tails behind them.' 

' Keep your poetry for those who appreciate it,' exclaimed 
Miss Georgina, tossing her head. 'All I know is, if the 
Smiths don't come home soon I shall think something's 
wrong.' 

There was something wrong indeed — how wrong, Miss Duck 
discovered later on, when a detective arrived from Scotland 
Yard ' in consequence of information received,' and in Miss 
Duck's presence searched the rooms and found quite enough to 
prove that the late occupants were professional forgers and in 
league with a gang of robbers. 

Miss Duck rushed off there and then and brought in Miss 
Jackson to stay with her till Jabez returned, declaring that she 
wasn't going to be murdered in her bed for anyone, and picturing 
in vivid colours what might have happened to a poor unprotected 
female left alone as she often had been with these monsters of 
iniquity. 

At the idea of her friend being murdered in her bed, Miss 
Jackson raised a dismal howl, and wept on Georgina's bosom 
to such an extent that the latter must have been in imminent 
danger of rheumatics in the chest. 



PECULIAR BEHAVIOUR OF SETH PREENE. 135 

' I always said they were no good,' hissed Miss Duck, as she 
counted the cheap electro spoons and forks. ' If Jabez had been 
a man he wouldn't have allowed me to be mixed up with a pack 
of thieves. Why didn't he let his apartments himself ? I'll 
never take another lodger as long as I live.' 

' I wouldn't, dear,' said Miss Jackson ; ' it isn't genteel.' 

' What !' shrieked Georgina, turning on Miss Jackson, ' not 
genteel ! Hoity-toity ! I wonder you demean yourself by 
honouring us with your presence ! Genteel, indeed ! My 
brother is a professional man, madam, if he is a fool. Your 
family made their money in dust-carts and refuse-heaps. Gen- 
teel, indeed !' 

Miss Jackson shrieked and gasped for mercy. She held her 
arms out and struck attitudes of despair. She would have torn 
her hair but that she knew it would come off directly. 

' Oh, Georgina !' she cried, ' don't, don't ! If you spurn me I 
shall die ! I didn't mean it ; indeed I didn't !' 

Here Miss Jackson went off into strong hysterics and shrieked 
so loudly that Georgina, fearing a crowd outside and further 
scandal, slapped her hands viciously and promised to forgive her. 
Whereupon Miss Jackson left off her hysterics, wiped away her 
tears, and, clasping Georgina to her heart, declared she was the 
best of women and the dearest of friends. 

Then, locking up the house, and taking Miss Jackson with 
her, Miss Duck marched off at once to Grigg and Limpet's, 
to inform Jabez of the affair and to give him a bit of her 
mind. 

Mr. Jabez being engaged with the governors, they were shown 
into a little waiting-room, in which there was already an elderly- 
looking female deeply veiled. 

Presently Jabez came in, and all three ladies rose to meet 
him. 

He gave a sharp cry of mingled astonishment and horror, 
then turned deadly pale, and seemed as though he would fly. 

The elderly female had thrown her veil up. Georgina and 
Miss Jackson had advanced towards him. 

The unhappy Jabez was alone with Georgina^ Miss Jackson, 
and Mrs. Turvey„ 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

THE PRODIGAL'S EETUEN. 

Witii the limited means at their command, George and Bess 
were not able to wander far away. 

George did not tell his young wife the nature of the trouble 
that had come upon him. He shrank from letting her know the 



136 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS, 

worst, that innocently even he had been mixed up with a gang 
of swindlers. 

The blow was so cruel it almost stunned him ; but by the time 
Bess, wondering and trembling, came to him at the railway 
station, he had recovered himself sufficiently to invent a fairly 
plausible tale. 

He told her that he believed his father was in London looking 
for him, and he did not care to run the risk of being discovered 
living under an assumed name. 

Bess wondered why such a discovery, which, after all, was 
nothing very terrible, should make her husband so white and 
ill and nervous ; but she did not question him. She was in 
that sweet and comfortable stage of hero-worship when a 
young wife believes all her husband tells her and does exactly 
as she is told— a delightful condition of things, which, alas ! 
rubs off as quickly as the gilt on the gingerbread sold at country 
fairs. 

So she followed her husband in blind faith, and accepted his 
story as gospel. 

They went a little way out first and put up at a small inn, 
living frugally, for their capital was small. 

George was restless and could not stop in one place. In every 
footstep behind him he heard the tread of the law ; in every 
stranger who looked at him he saw a possible detective. 

Over and over again he thought the situation out to himself, 
and wondered whether it would not be better to make a clean 
breast of it to justice, say who he was, prove his innocence, and 
so know the worst. 

But this could not be done secretly. He knew that he would 
be charged, under any circumstances, with uttering the forged 
cheque, and he remembered with horror that he had endorsed 
the name of Smith and Co. upon it. Then he had been living 
under a false name, and he had left home in debt and diffi- 
culties. 

No, he would rather wander about and endure a hundred 
miseries as George Smith than stand forth as George Heritage, 
and let his private life be read by the hundred eyes of the 
vulgar, with sneers and jeers and contemptuous laughter. 

He was terribly sensitive of ridicule, and he saw at once the 
ridiculous figure he should cut as the clerk, at £3 a week, to a 
gang of swindlers. 

Once or twice he was inclined to take Bess into his confidence ; 
but here again his sensitiveness stepped in. 

He could not bear even for his wife to know that he had been 
fooled. Their short dream of happiness, their humble little 
home life, had been so real and earnest, it was with something 
like a shudder he contemplated shattering the past. 

No, for the present he would leave her in blissful ignorance 
of his stupidity and failure. But as the funds grew shorter and 



THE PRODIGALS RETURN. 137 

a pinch came, he grew terribly uneasy, and his face began to 
wear a worn, worried look, which frightened his young wife. 

They moved on now from place to place, never stopping more 
than a night in any one. George scarcely slept. All night in 
the little bed-room in the village inn where they stayed he 
would lie and turn from side to side, thinking and conjuring up 
a thousand fancied catastrophes. 

"When the original funds were quite gone, and the worst stared 
him in the face, George, still carefully concealing the real aspect 
of affairs from Bess, surreptitiously pawned his watch and chain 
and his ring. 

As the future began to look blacker and blacker, he instinc- 
tively turned his footsteps towards home. 
That must be the last resource. 

The means of staving off the day of reckoning were diminish- 
ing rapidly, and a bold move was necessary, unless his poor Bess 
was to know the real horrors of poverty. 

1 Anything rather than that,' he thought to himself. ' I will 
go towards home, and then, if the worst comes, I must swallow 
my pride, throw myself on the old man's generosity, and get 
enough to leave the country till this affair blows over, or I 
can devise some means of setting myself right without a public 
exposure.' 

So it came about that after wandering up and down the 
country, and living as frugally as possible, George found himself, 
at the end of a fortnight, without money and without shelter, 
but within a few miles of his father's estate. 

The fierce winter had melted into the genial brightness of the 
early spring, once the pleasantest part of the year, but now, 
alas ! as uncommon in these islands as the dodo or the great 
auk. The first tender green leaves were peeping out shyly 
among the branches of the trees, as though they were half 
afraid that winter might not be quite gone, and the air was 
full of the sweet invigorating essence which lends elasticity 
to the step of the aged wayfarer, and tempts the young to 
pitch decorum to the winds and to scamper about and shout and 
laugh. 

I pity the lad or the lass whose pulse does not beat quicker 
on a bright spring day, whose heart does not fill to overflowing 
with love for Nature as he gazes on the young earth quickening 
into life and beauty beneath the bright smile of the early spring 
sun. 

It was on one of those spring days that Bess and George trod 
the old road towards the park for the first time since their 
marriage. 

But George was nervous and ill, and Bess, oppressed with the 
idea that her husband had some secret trouble which he would 
not allow her to share, was profoundly miserable. 

One idea alone consoled her. He had told her that morning, 



138 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

when further subterfuge was useless, and when he was bound 
to confess they were penniless, that he was going to see his 
father. Bess was delighted to hear it. She had not dared to say 
so, or to urge such a step, but she felt that anything was better 
than the wandering, miserable life they had led lately. 

Besides, should she not see her own father ? 

Twice since she had left home she had written a short letter, 
giving no address and no clue to her whereabouts, saying she 
was well and happy, and that her father was to have faith in her 
and think the best he could. 

And now she was going to see him and tell him all, for George 
was taking her back as his wife, and there would be no need for 
further concealment. 

At any other time the idea of seeing her father would have 
made her supremely happy. She had looked forward to the 
day when she might put her arms round his neck and tell him 
all so eagerly ; and now that the time had come she was miser- 
able. Alas ! it was the old story. How often the cherished 
dream of our life is accomplished amid surroundings which 
make it a hollow mockery, and only serve to intensify the bitter 
disappointment ! We can look back upon yesterday with regret, 
and we can look forward to to-morrow with pleasure ; but, 
alas ! to-day is ever present, and to-day is generally a very dull 
affair. 

George and Bess sauntered along the road, dusty, tired, and 
travel-stained. George's face was white and haggard, and he 
had let his beard grow during the fortnight, which did not add 
to the picturesqueness of his appearance. Bess, too, in the 
hurried journeyings and constant moving from pillar to post, 
had neglected her toilette somewhat, and had had to make 
shift as best she could ; so that as they tramped along they 
might easily have been mistaken for something much lower 
in the social scale than the heir to the Heritage estates and his 
young wife. 

' We must not get to the house till dusk, Bess,' said George, 
as they strolled along. ' I couldn't go in this sight in broad day- 
light.' 

' No/ answered Bess ; ' it will be best to wait till it's dusk, 
George dear ; there'll be nobody about then. Old Dick will 
have gone home, and there'll only be father.' 

' Ah !' exclaimed George eagerly, ' I'd forgotten that. You 
can go first and see your father, and I can come and slip into 
the lodge and wait about till the coast is clear, and then go 
up to the house.' Now that he was nearing his home his heart 
was beginning to fail him, and the old pride, which trouble 
had broken down for a while, was beginning to reassert itself. 

Just outside the village in which Heritage Park stands there 
is a small wood. The high road skirts it, and it forms a tempt- 
ing place for the dusty wayfarer to seek shelter in for a while. 



THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN. 139 

Many a tramp on his road from workhouse to workhouse 
wanders into this wood, and, flinging himself down, enjoys a 
siesta, forgetting his troubles and dreaming such dreams as it 
pleases Nature to send him in the place of realities. 

When George and Bess came to the wood, they determined to 
make it their halting-place for a while. It was only afternoon, 
and there were a couple of good hours before it would be dark 
enough for them to enter the village safely. 

They crept into the wood to a spot which had been a favourite 
one with them in their sweethearting days, and sat down. 

The fresh air and the long walk had tired them, and after a 
while they fell asleep. 

While the tired pilgrims rested, a pair of very different travel- 
lers passed leisurely along the high road. 

They were an elderly clergyman and a young gentleman. 

The clergyman was tall and burly, and wore his garb with a 
curious awkwardness, that would have impressed the critical 
observer with an idea that his living was a rural one. 

The young gentleman, though dressed in the height of fashion, 
was a little gaudy about the necktie, and had a sharp, cunning 
look upon his face, and a decided squint in the deeply-set, eager, 
restless eyes, that seemed to take in the four points of the com- 
pass at once. 

The clergyman and his son were staying at a local hostelry 
hard by for a day or two, and were enjoying the delightful walks 
in which the neighbourhood abounds. 

-They were remarkably quiet and uncommunicative at the old 
Lamb Inn, which had the honour of harbouring them ; but 
evidently the fresh air had loosened their tongues. 

For a clergyman and his son their style of conversation was, 
to say the least of it, peculiar. 

' We must do it to-night, Boss,' said the elder ; ' soon after 
dusk. The swag's all in jewels, and a grab'll collar the lot.' 

' Right ye are, Josh,' answered the young gentleman. ' But I 
hope Jim's give us the right tip.' 

1 Trust Jim,' said the rev. gentleman ; ' he's put up three jobs 
for me in cribs where he's been, and I've always been able to 
put my hand on the swag jes' as if I'd put it out for myself. 
There's only the old man to tackle.' 

' No wierlence, I 'ope, Josh, eh ? — nothink as 'ud disgrace the 
cloth ?' 

The rev. gentleman laughed. 

'Wierlence? No. Don't you be afeard, young un. This is 
only kid's play, or I shouldn't have brought you. The old cove 
ain't likely to show fight — we shan't give him the chance ; and 
the servants'll all be out of the way.' 

' Right,' answered the young gentleman, glancing admiringly at 
his elegant suit. ' I likes to do the thing like a gent, and wier- 
lence is so doosid low nowadays.' 



140 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Perhaps if the landlord of the Lamb Inn had overheard this 
strange conversation between his highly respectable guests he 
would not have welcomed them back from their stroll with quite 
such a pleasant smile. 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

SQUIRE HERITAGE MAKES A WILL. 

Old Squire Heritage had aged very rapidly after the abrupt 
departure of his son from the hall. 

Of a naturally gloomy and austere disposition, and strongly 
biased towards the cold and uncompromising religious views 
which a large section of the English people have had trans- 
mitted to them through many generations from the old Puritans, 
the squire believed the blow which had fallen upon him was 
dealt by a Divine hand. 

He had, in his unsympathetic way, been very proud of his 
son George. The harshness that the young man so bitterly 
resented was only the result of a mistaken idea of parental 
duty. 

When his son showed a taste not only for the frivolities but 
also for what the squire considered the vices of the age, he felt 
that stern repression was necessary. In the old days of parental 
despotism he would have flung his son into prison ; in the 
enlightened times which forbade the head of a family to declare 
his domestic circle in a state of siege and proclaim military 
law, he contented himself by reprimanding the prodigal, treat- 
ing him with icy displeasure, and eventually renouncing all ties 
of kinship with him. 

By an ordinarily constituted father George's misdeeds would 
have been treated as youthful follies, and though the parental 
anger might have been fierce when the parental pocket was 
touched, it is probable far less drastic remedies would have been 
considered necessary. 

When George, trembling with passion, left his father's 
presence vowing to see his face no more, Squire Heritage did 
not reproach himself for having goaded the young man to such 
a frame of mind. 

When that night the old lodge-keeper came to him and told 
him that the young squire had ordered his things to be sent 
after him to London, his master simply said, ' Send them,' in a 
tone which prohibited any further discussion. 

But when, a fortnight later, Bess Marks disappeared, leaving 
a note for her father which pointed to only one conclusion, and 
the squire heard of it, he went to the grief-stricken man and 
took him kindly by the hand and comforted him. 



SQUIRE HERITAGE MAKES A WILL. 141 

Never was there a greater contrast than between the two 
fathers — the plebeian and the patrician. 

The lodge-keeper, a prey to violent grief and heartbroken at 
his child's conduct, never breathed a word of reproach against 
her. He only prayed that, however guilty she might be, no 
suffering might come near her, but that God would give her 
back again to his loving and protecting arms. 

Squire Heritage spoke of his absent son coldly, almost cruelly. 
It was no secret among the people on the estate that Bess Marks 
had ' run away ' with the young squire, and this added to the 
intensity of his father's indignation and shame. 

He felt humiliated, as he stood in the presence of his faithful 
old retainer, to think that this foul wrong should have been 
done him by one who bore his name, and his anger against the 
absent scapegrace was fed by the discovery, as flame is fed with 
oil. 

For the mental torture which he endured he sought refuge in 
the consolations of religion— of a religion which was founded on 
the fierce moral code of the Old Testament, and ignored the 
gentler teaching of the New. 

He became almost a recluse, and passed his days in the old 
library, building up around the natural instincts of his heart 
a wall of bigotry, against which the erring son might throw 
himself in vain. 

With nothing else to occupy his mind or divert his attention, 
with no society now but that of the fierce old theologians, his 
favourite authors, he became a prey to religious monomania, 
and an intellect long threatened was submerged by a flood of 
fanaticism. 

He believed that God called upon him to show his faith as 
Abraham showed his. His conscience told him that he must 
cast the erring son off: for ever, and that if he shrank from the 
utmost extremity of punishment he was a weak vessel, who pre- 
ferred his human affection to his duty to God and man. 

When once a lonely, narrow-minded man yields to this 
morbid view, there is no limit to the sway it has over him. 
Every natural instinct, every human feeling, becomes sub- 
servient to it, and the cruellest and most heartless deeds, sur- 
rounded by a false religious glamour, seem to him but so many 
noble actions performed in the service of the Master. 

It was not enough for Squire Heritage that he and his son 
had parted, and that he was in utter ignorance of the young 
man's whereabouts. Such conduct called for the severest 
punishment it was in his power to inflict. In the first days of 
their separation, though he had renounced him, he had hesitated 
at disinheriting him. 

That was a vengeance that would survive when the grave 
had closed over him. While he lived he would never call 
him son again, but when he was dead — no, he would not make 



142 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

up his mind to carry his just indignation to such a point as 
that. 

But when Bess Marks disappeared, and it was known that 
George had been seen frequently with her ' sweethearting,' as 
the gossips called it, and when inquiry left no doubt that the 
girl had gone, and at her young master's instigation, the old 
squire shattered his last scruple at a blow. 

On the very day that he felt certain the old lodge-keeper's 
daughter had been lured from home by his son, he sent to his 
solicitor in hot haste, and prepared and executed a new will. 

His first impulse had been to leave the whole of his estate to 
charity, but the pride of race was strong upon him. 

Since the days when Cromwell rewarded his bravest fol- 
lowers with the lands of the Royalists, the Heritages had been 
lords of the old hall and the land about it. If he left all to 
charity the estates would have to be sold. After a long and 
anxious consideration the squire determined on leaving his 
property to preserve the name, and yet to leave his fortune 
where it would be well used. 

He had never renewed his old friendship with John Adrian, 
which had been interrupted when they both fell in love with the 
gentle lady Heritage afterwards married. 

John had not broken his heart when pretty Ruth Patmore 
gave the preference to the wealthy young country squire. He 
had taken the defeat like a sensible fellow, and later on had 
himself married and been comparatively happy. But that a 
remembrance of the old romance survived was evident when he 
named his little daughter Ruth. 

Though the Heritages and the Adrians never met, they heard 
of each other from mutual friends, and after his wife's death 
the squire had once or twice inquired especially after Ruth. 

He had heard that she had met with a disappointment in 
love, and also of her pure and noble life, her labours among the 
poor, and the extent to which she tried to do good with the 
means at her command. 

There was something of sentiment in it, perhaps, but he could 
not help thinking how fortunate Adrian had been in his 
daughter and how unfortunate he had been in his son. 

Brooding over the past, and comparing it with the present, it 
was not wonderful that the image of Ruth Adrian rose before 
him often as he thought of his ungrateful son. 

"When he was brooding over the scheme of the new will which 
he had determined to make, and had abandoned the idea of 
leaving his fortune to charitable institutions, again bis mind 
reverted to Ruth Adrian. 

Gradually a vague idea formed itself, which by degrees as- 
sumed a definite shape. There would be something of poetic 
justice in benefiting the daughter of his old rival, the girl who 
bore his dead wife's name. Had God granted him a daughter 



SQUIRE HERITAGE MAKES A WILL. 143 

he would have named her Ruth too — Ruth Heritage. The 
name lingered in his mind, and the sweet memories flowed once 
more over the grave of the buried years. 

Ruth Heritage ! 

Why was this gentle girl not his daughter ? How fortunate 
Adrian had been. His wife lived still, and his daughter was the 
comfort of his age. He, the successful rival, bad no wife and 
no child. 

Ruth Heritage ! 

He sat in the window-seat of the library, looking across the 
quiet park to the lodge-gates, watching for his solicitor to come, 
and thinking over the will he was to make. 

And when, an hour later, his man of business was with him 
in close conference, his scheme was complete. There was an 
element of romance in it. The harshness to his own son was 
toned down by the halo of tenderness which it cast over an old 
love-story. 

The solicitor took his client's instructions with professional 
lack of emotion. Family solicitors assist in the disinheritance 
of sons, the revelation of delicate domestic secrets, and carefully 
calculated schemes of a revenge which is to survive after death, 
with no more concern than the prompter feels as he watches the 
progress of a sensation drama. 

To him the scheme which may bring happiness or misery to 
hundreds represents so many folios of writing at so much a 
folio, and so many hours of professional work at so much an hour. 

Mr. Baggs, of the firm of Baggs & Carter, expressed no 
surprise at the fact that young George Heritage was to be dis- 
inherited, and did not even venture on a suggestion. He 
listened to his client's instructions, and took them away to put 
them in a legal form. 

When the will was ready Squire Heritage signed it, sealed it, 
delivered it as his act and deed, and locked it up among his papers. 

It was a very simple will. It gave and bequeathed to Ruth 
Adrian, the daughter of his old rival John Adrian, the whole of 
his property, subject to a few legacies to old servants. But it 
made this proviso : that the said Ruth Adrian should assume 
the name of Heritage ; and that in the event of her being 
married when the will came into operation, her husband should 
assume the name of Heritage. By this means the old name 
would continue to be identified with the place. 

Directly he had settled his worldly affairs, the squire relapsed 
once more into the gloomy inactivity from which he had only 
been aroused by the necessity of devising a scheme for the dis- 
posal of his property. 

But in spite of himself he kept thinking of the will and then 
of his absent son. He found himself picturing the days that 
should be after he had passed away and had no power to revoke 
his decision. 



[44 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

When in his lonely walks round the estate he passed some 
wretched tramp on his way to the workhouse, he would fancy 
his son, reduced to such a position after a career of dissipation, 
perishing friendless and without hope. 

Then he would shudder and ask himself if he were justified 
in thus ruining the worldly prospects of his only son for life, 
and giving his inheritance to a stranger. 

But at night, with the Bible open before him, and the 
passionate Hebrew invective against the evildoer appealing to 
his narrowed vision, he cast these forebodings to the wind. 
Such thoughts were thoughts sent by the devil to weaken his 
determination. Were not all the servants of God tempted in 
like manner to swerve from the path of duty, and was it not 
always the natural impulses of the heart that were sought to be 
turned to their undoing ? So the gloomy train of thought led 
him away, till he was prepared to listen to each chord of human 
sympathy which memory awoke in him as one struck by the 
tempter's fingers. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

THE BORGLARY AT THE HALL. 

Night had come upon the old hall, and the fresh spring wind, 
trying to whistle a tune for the young leaves to dance to, was 
the only thing that disturbed the perfect calm which had fallen 
upon the spot. 

Up in his library at the hall the squire sat among his books 
and papers. 

Beside him lay a packet of faded yellow letters — the letters 
his wife had written him during their happy married life 
There were not many of them, for they were seldom apart, and 
the opportunity for correspondence had rarely arisen. 

He had found them to-night in a box to which he had gone 
for something else, and he had read them over. 

All of them mentioned George. They had been written 
mostly when George was a little lad, one year that the squire 
bad gone abroad for six weeks by himself. As the old man read 
the words of tender love and devotion, he thanked God that 
this fond heart, at least, had ceased to beat ere its idol could 
grow up to break it. 

Then he wondered if things would have been different had 
she lived. Perhaps he had been too severe and expected too 
much. 

He read the lines traced by the hand long cold in the grave, 
and a strange sense of uneasiness came over him. 

It seemed as though the spirit of the dead woman was plead- 
ing with him for her boy. 



THE B URGLA RY AT THE HALL. 145 

The hereafter was a mystery. If the. eyes of the saints look 
down upon earth, what would the mother in heaven think of the 
father who robbed his son of his inheritance and left him a 
beggar ? 

The old man was low and desponding, and his mind was none 
too vigorous now. Strange fancies came to him at times . He 
wrestled with the devil in spirit, and endeavoured to ascribe 
every trifling incident to the direct interposition of Providence. 

He had been proud of his son, he said to himself, and made 
an earthly idol of him The worship had certainly been as cold 
and formal as some other worships which look down with con- 
siderable contempt on enthusiasm in religion, but he persuaded 
himself it had been there So he was punished for his idolatry 
by the shattering of his idol. In olden times he would have 
worn a shirt of hair and washed the feet of beggars for his sins ; 
now he strove to put himself right by mortifying not the flesh 
but the spirit — by trampling out his natural affections, and mis- 
interpreting the will of heaven. 

He read the letters of his dead wife, which spoke of George 
again and again. Once he cast them aside with a shudder. 
It was another wile of the Evil One to lure him into leniency 
for the transgressor But gradually his heart softened as 
memory carried him back to the happiest days of his life, when 
his sweet Ruth tossed the laughing child upon her knee and 
held him up for his father's kiss 

It was not long ago — it was to-day. He could see them. 
The gloomy room faded away, and it was the pleasant summer 
time. There with fresh-plucked roses in her hand, sat his wife, 
and George — little George — was clapping his baby hands with 
delight as 'pretty mamma' twined the beautiful buds in her 
hair. 

He started up, and held his hands towards the vision, but it 
faded in an instant, and he was once more alone — a miserable, 
weak old man, wifeless and childless. 

' No, no !' he cried, burying his face in his hands. ' My 
heart relents ; I cannot do it. She would rise from her grave. 
Ruth — my poor Ruth — for your dear sake I will forgive him 
all !' 

For a few minutes the old man, a prey to violent emotion, 
the tears streaming down his face, struggled with himself. The 
old love he had trampled beneath the heel of supposed duty was 
beating at bis heart and striving to enter. The wall of faith 
was weak to-night — it gave way, and love marched in a 
conqueror. 

With feverish hands he seized the pen, and, taking a sheet of 
paper, began to write. ^ 

Hi s pen moved on rapidly — he wrote as though he feareo. 
a hand would seize his wrist and stop him. 

Love had conquered. Squire Heritage wrote that night how, 



146 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

being of sound mind, he did revoke the will made in favour of 
Buth Adrian, and give and bequeath all his property to his 
beloved son George. 

Then he rang the bell. He -would have his signature wit- 
nessed at once, lock it up and put it away, lest he might repent 
at the last moment. He summoned the old butler and one of 
the servants, who came up wondering at their presence being 
required. 

If the master had asked them to stand on their heads they 
could not have been more surprised than when the squire bade 
them watch him write his name on a piece of paper, and then 
write theirs underneath it. The butler felt as if he was com- 
mitting a midnight crime ; but he obeyed, so did the other 
servant. 

Then the squire dismissed them wondering, and, folding up 
the paper, placed it among the letters of his dead wife. It 
seemed to him that it was an answer to them, and should lie 
with them. 

He put them back into the box he had taken them from. It 
was a small deed -box, and contained all Mrs. Heritage's 
jewellery. 

Her wedding-ring he wore himself ; but her diamonds, all her 
bracelets and trinkets, he had refused to part with. He had 
gathered them together, and put them in this box with her 
letters, and a few of the little treasures that had been dear to 
her in life. There was a small locket with a curl from baby 
George's head ; there was the hair he cut with trembling fingers 
as he stooped to kiss the marble brow of his lost one for the 
last time. 

When he had placed the letters and the paper in the box, he 
drew out the jewel-cases and opened them. He had not looked 
at them for years. To-night he was living in the past. He 
opened case after case, and gazed lovingly at the gleaming 
jewels within. But as the diamonds sparkled in the gaslight, 
and the rubies and the emeralds shot forth their coloured rays, 
as though eager to escape from the long darkness in which they 
had been imprisoned, the old squire thought not of their value 
and beauty, but of the loving bosom the necklace once lay 
upon, of the gentle wrists the bracelets once clasped. 

As he laid them back in the box and closed it with a sigh, he 
fancied he heard a sound in the passage outside. 

He hurried to see what it was. 

The library door was slightly ajar and the gas was lit. 

As he turned he heard, or fancied he heard, a rustle, as though 
some one who had been peering into the room had moved away. 

There was no one about belonging to the house, he knew. 
The servants had gone to the servants' hall, and they never 
came near him except when he rang. 

It was about nine o'clock, and they would be all at supper 



THE BURGLARY AT THE HALL. 147 

down below. Who was watching him ? — who was spying on his 
movements ? 

He walked rapidly towards the door. 

At the same moment he heard a noise behind him, and felt 
the wind blowing in from an open window. 

He turned at the sound, and would have shouted for help, but 
a hand was thrust over his mouth and a cloth was thrown over 
his head. 

A tall, burly man, with a crape mask on, had him in his 
grasp. 

' It can't be helped ; he'd have raised a hullabaloo in a 
minute,' cried the man. ' Quick with the stuff, while I hold 
him!' 

Some one, who never spoke, and whom the squire could not 
see. was moving about the room. 

' Now out with the gas and bolt !' cried the man who held the 
squire. 

At the same time he gave the squire a violent push, that sent 
him full-length on the floor. 

There was a noise at the window, a thud on the lawn below, 
and then all was still. 

The force with which the squire had been hurled to the ground 
had only partially stunned him. In a few minutes he came 
round and dragged himself up. He was trembling and exhausted, 
and the place was quite dark. 

He rushed to the door and called for help. Presently the terri- 
fied servants came running up. 

When the lights were procured, the squire gasped out his 
story. 

A glance round the room showed that the burglars had left by 
the window. 

They had not left empty-handed. 

When the squire looked towards the place where he had left 
the deed-box, with his late wife's letters, jewels, and valuables, 
it was gone. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

HOW FATHER AND SON MET AGAIN. 

As the dusk set in, George Heritage and his young wife drew 
nearer and nearer to the home they had both quitted under such 
different circumstances. 

For the last half hour of their walk George had been almost 
silent ; but Bess, who was picturing in her mind the meeting 
with her father, hardly noticed it. 

10—2 



MS ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

The determination he had made to throw himself upon hi3 
father's generosity, to return like the prodigal and crave forgive- 
ness, was becoming weaker and weaker as the time came for it 
to be carried into effect. 

But for Bess, he would have turned back now at the eleventh 
hour ; yet the thought of the misery which his penniless condi- 
tion would entail upon her forced him to go on. 

He waited a little way off while Bess went on first and saw her 
father. He fancied there might be a scene, and he didn't like 
scenes. He was no longer George Smith, the unknown clerk. 
Here he was George Heritage, Marks's young master ; and he 
felt that the position, till explained, would be awkward. 

Had Bess risen from the dead, her father would not have been 
more astonished than he was when she crept into the little lodge 
and fell at his feet. 

' Father !' she cried, ' don't you know me ?' 

For a moment the old lodge-keeper struggled for breath. Then 
his voice came, and with a big sob, he cried, ' Bess— my own 
darling ! Thank God ! Thank God !' 

He flung his arms about her, raised her, and clasped her to bis 
breast, the hot tears pouring down his wrinkled cheeks into the 
flushed, upturned face of his daughter. 

Bess cried a little, laughed a little, and then cried again, and at 
last, when she could speak without doing either, she told her 
story in a few words. 

The old lodge-keeper listened in silence. 

' Ay, I knew it, my darling,' he said, when she had finished. 
' I got your letters, and I trusted you. I guessed it was for the 
young master's sake you were silent.' 

' Yes, father ; I would never have kept it secret from you but 
for George.' 

' No, my lass, I know that. I said to myself many a night, 
when I sat here alone, looking up at the bright stars, and 
thinking that might be up in the great city you were looking 
at them too — I said, "My little lass is an honest lass; she 
wouldn't shame her old father for the best gentleman in the 
land.'' I hieio you were married to the young master, Bess, my 
darling. If I hadn't believed that, I don't think you would have 
found me here now.' 

Little by little, Bess told her father how they had been living 
in London, and how good George had been ; but how now, for 
some reason, it was necessary he should see his father and make 
his peace with him. ' Would her father let him come to the lodge 
and wait awhile, till he could go up to the hall and see the squire 
alone ?' 

Of course Marks would. ' Wasn't he the young master, and 
wasn't he Bess's husband ? God bless him V 

Then Bess went out, and George came quietly in and sat 
down in the little room where no one could see him, and they 



HO IV FATHER AND SON MET AGAIN. 149 

closed the door and drew down the blind, and talked matters 
over. 

Marks could not imagine himself the father-in-law of the 
vomit; squire, lie touched his hat to him and said, ' No, Master 
George,' and 'Yes, Master George,' and wouldn't sit down in the 
room where he was ; and George began to feel very uncomfort- 
able, and to wish he could see some way of escape even now 
without speaking to his father. 

He must tell him of Mrs. George Heritage — that was a matter 
of course. Some day he had intended to do so under any circum- 
stances ; but some day had always been a very convenient day. 
This day was a most inconvenient one. 

Still matters were desperate. At any time there might be a 
hue-and-cry after him. He must leave the country at once, unless 
he wished to run the risk of taking a public trial and having the 
whole of his past life published in the papers. No; it was better 
to tell his father all, humiliating as it was, than to have the whole 
world knowing it. 

Again, what was he to do with Bess ? He couldn't drag her 
about from pillar to post. He could rough it himself, but she 
was a woman. Besides, he didn't want her to know everything. 
He had supposed he was really doing something very good 
and noble in making her his wife. As long as he could retain 
that idea, there was still some romance about the affair. But 
if he had to drag her about with him and let her see that he 
was a pauper and in terror of the law, she would owe him 
nothing. She might then be making a sacrifice for him. He 
didn't want a lodge-keeper's daughter to be a sort of benefactrcsi 
to him. 

He was a strange mixture of good and evil, this young Heri- 
tage. He was generous and mean, brave and cowardly, large- 
minded and small-minded, all at the same time. And his be- 
setting sin was vacillation. 

Even now, with the road smoothed for him, with everything 
to gain and nothing to lose, he hesitated at sacrificing his dignity 
by an ad mincricordiam appeal to his father. 

He had pictured something so very different. He had hoped 
for a time when his father, finding he was independent of him, 
would hold out his arms and beg his son to honour him again 
with his friendship. 

Bess, supremely happy, once more in her father's presence, sat 
and chatted pleasantly. Never an idea crossed her mind that it 
was any serious trouble which had driven them from London. 
She believed that George, at first fearing his father had found 
out his address, had determined to leave the Ducks for awhile. 
Afterwards, when he determined to go to the hall, she thought 
he had made up his mind, after all, that it would be better to 
make a clean breast of it and trust to his father's generosity. 

She believed, poor little woman, that George had taken the 



150 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

best course he could, and that happy days were in store for 
them. 

As to the squire refusing to be reconciled to his son, or to 
receive the wanderer, such an idea never entered her head. 

Who could refuse George anything ? 

Besides, if he had married her, she couldn't see that was such 
a very great crime. She looked in the glass and saw every excuse 
for a young man doing such a thing. 

Her father was not a menial ; he was an old and valued re- 
tainer, and had been the old squire's companion in many a long 
walk and in many an evening chat under the great wide-spread- 
ing trees of the park. She had been born on the estate, and the 
squire had always been kind to her and treated her like a lady. 
She had had quite as good an education as many of the gentry's 
children round about, for it had been a whim of the squire's lady 
to send her to school, and some day she had thought of going out 
for a governess. But her mother died, and, instead of going out 
into the great world, she stayed at home with her father and fell 
in love with Master George. 

And now they were married. Well, perhaps the squire would 
have chosen some one higher in rank for his son, but his son 
might have done much worse. Bess had a spirit of her own and 
a fair amount of pride. She was quite sure the squire need not 
be very angry with George for marrying her. 

George sat and listened to Bess's busy tongue, but he hardly 
hoard a word she said. He was absorbed in his own thoughts, 
and they were not nearly so pleasant as Bess's. 

Towards nine he drew Marks on one side. 

' He's alone in the library about this time, isn't he?' 

' Yes,' answered the old lodge- keeper ; 'he sits there all the 
evening after dinner now, writing and reading and talking to 
himself.' 

' How can I get in without the servants seeing me ?' 

' The outer hall-door is not closed ; the inner door opens if you 
turn the handle. But, lor', Master George, as if you didn't know 
the ways of the house as well as me !' 

' What about the dog ? If he recognises me he'll bark and 
bring the servants up.' 

' I'll go up and let him out, and take him for a run while you 
go in,' said Marks. ' But what can it matter if the servants do 
see you, Master George ?' 

' I don't want them to, Marks. You'd understand why if you 
were in my position.' 

George and Marks had walked to the door talking. Before 
they went out George turned back suddenly into the inner room, 
where Bess was instinctively doing a little tidying up. 

He went across to where she stood and took her hands in 
his. 

' Bess,' he said, almost solemnly, ' I love you very dearly, and 



HOW FATHER AND SON MET AGAIN. 151 

you know it. What I am going to do to-night I am doing for 
your sake. If I fail, your love may have a rude shock. Wish me 
God speed.' 

She threw her arms about his neck and kissed him. 

' God speed you, my darling,' she murmured. ' But happy days 
are coming now.' 

' Pray God you may be right!' he cried. Then he clasped her 
to his breast for a moment and was gone. 

Outside he took Marks by the arm. 

' Listen,' he said. ' I am going on a desperate errand to-night. 
I can't tell you everything, and Bess has no idea how much 
depends on this interview. If I fail, it will be necessary for me 
to get away for awhile. I can't drag her through the perils I 
shall have to encounter.' 

The young man's manner was so solemn, that old Marks was 
alarmed. 

' Oh, Master George, what do you mean ?' he exclaimed ner- 
vously. 

' I can't tell you. I only want you to promise me this. If I 
fail, I shall leave the place at once, for a time. I want you to 
guard my poor girl for a time, till I can make a home for her 
elsewhere. Promise me !'' 

' I promise. But you are exaggerating, Master George. The 
squire won't be cruel. I am sure he will forgive you.' 

' I don't know ; he may not. If he doesn't, I am a penni- 
less beggar. I can starve, but she can't. You won't turn her 
out?' 

' Turn her out ? I'm her father, Master George.' 

The young man pointed to the hall. 

' The man who lives there is mine, but he drove me out of my 
home.' 

' You went of your own accord.' 

'No, he drove me out, I tell you ; and now I am coming back 
to him like a whipped cur to plead for mercy.' 

The struggle between pride and necessity was raging in the 
young man's breast. 

' Go and get the dog away, Marks,' he exclaimed passionately, 
' and let me go, or I shall turn tail even now.' 

Marks walked up to the hall, loosed the dog, and, holding 
him by the collar, led him away across the grounds some dis- 
tance from the house. At the iame moment there was a move- 
ment in the shrubbery on the other side of the house, and a big, 
burly man came creeping round in the shadow and stole noise- 
lessly up the stairs. 

At the same time another man, much thinner and shorter, 
came from the same place, and, keeping along by the walls of 
the house, wont round to where a short garden ladder stood 
against the side of the house where a creeper was being 
trained. 



152 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS.) 

It was immediately under the library window. 

When Marks had been gone some little time, and George knew 
that the dog would be beyond hearing distance, he came up 
through the trees towards the house. 

Marks was to lead the dog round and take him back to the 
lodge, and wait there with Bess till George returned. 

The moment had arrived- 

The young man's idea in entering the house like a thief, 
and at night, was to avoid recognition by the servants. He 
wanted to see his father alone and unperceived — to go like the 
prodigal, and cast himself at his feet, and say, ' Father, forgive 
me !' 

He didn't want a servant to go rushing up with, ' Here's 
Master George come back !' and all that nonsense. He hated 
a fuss, and he had an idea that he was in a very humiliating 
position. 

Besides, even if his father gave him what he wanted, it was 
better he should come and go unseen, except by Marks. 

The fact remained that he had been connected with a gang of 
swindlers, and there was no knowing where or how he might be 
traced when once inquiry was set on foot. 

The past, the present, and the future all flashed through 
his mind, as, with hesitating steps, he walked up towards the 
hall. 

' But for Bess,' he thought, ' I'd have had a desperate try to 
do without him. But for Bess ' 

He stopped suddenly. 

His great difficulty all along had been what to do with Bess. 
But for the present was not that fear removed ? Was she not 
safe beneath her father's roof ? Where better could she be than 
that? 

Swiftly he reviewed the whole situation. Bess being at home 
might stay there a little while. That would give him time. He 
need not creep into his father's house like a thief. Might he 
not write to him first ? He could say what he wanted to say 
so much better in a letter, and there would be less humilia- 
tion. 

At that moment his fate trembled in the balance. 

H he had gone on boldly and seen his father, all might have 
been well. 

But he hesitated. He put off the doing that which he dis- 
liked, and he reaped the penalty. 

Instead of going up to the hall, he turned back towards the 
lodge. 

He walked rapidly away from the house. 

Suddenly he heard a sound behind him as of heavy footsteps 
running. 

Instantly the thought flashed upon him that he had been 



HO IV FATHER AND SON MET AGAIN. 153 

trapped ; that the police had found out who he was, and, expect- 
ing he would come home, had lain in wait for him. 

lie did not stop to reason, or to think that if this was so he 
would have been captured at the lodge. 

lie only heard the rapidly advancing footsteps behind him, 
and made certain that he was the object of pursuit. 

He must not be taken, at any rate, not there, where twenty 
people would recognize him. The scandal would be magnified 
tenfold. He ran rapidly in the direction of the lodge, fear lend- 
ing swiftness to his limbs, weary with his wanderings. 

As he darted past the lodge, Marks was at the door. 

George shouted to him, ' Remember your promise !' and flew 
on like a madman. 

The lodge-gates were closed, but he knew a weak spot in the 
hedge ; he ran up the side, scrambled through, and he was in the 
roadway. 

He paused for a second and listened. 

He could hear no footsteps now. His pursuers had not come 
towards the lodge. 

He had gained on them a little. 

He ran on still, all along the roadway, as fast as he could, and 
then walked. 

Presently he came to a quiet spot where the trees grew by the 
roadside. 

He crept behind the trunk of one, and stood there to rest 
awhile, wondering whither he could turn his footsteps to escape 
the hue-and-cry which he felt sure was now raised. 

As George Heritage rushed past him, Marks was so astonished 
that for the moment he did not move. 

He was about to follow him, when suddenly a cry rang across 
the stillness of the night : 

' Help ! help ! help !' 

There were lights in the lower rooms up at the hall, and the 
servants were now hurrying about. 

With a cry of terror, Marks ran, as well as his aged limbs 
would let him, up to the house. 

A fearful suspicion flashed across his mind. 

George had seen his father. There had been a quarrel, 
and 

He dared not shape his thoughts into words. 

Terrified and trembling, he arrived at the hall. 

1 What is it ?' he gasped to the old housekeeper, who was on 
the landing wringing her hands. 

' Thieves and murder's the matter !' she screamed. ' Some 
villain's half murdered the master, and carried off all the jewellery 
and goodness knows what.' 

The whole village was gradually aroused by the news of the 



154 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

burglary and the attack on the squire, and every part of the 
estate was searched for traces of the culprits. 

Presently there was a great noise heard as of a crowd coming 
nearer and nearer. 

The servants ran out to the gates, and returned with the news 
that one of the burglars was caught. 

Followed by a crowd came two constables, dragging a man 
with them. His clothes had been torn to shreds in the struggle, 
the dirt and dust of the roads were upon him, and the blood from 
a blow on his head had trickled down his face. 

None of the crowd knew him. Tbey thought he was a tramp, 
and in the dark night his face, disfigured as it was, was almost 
unrecognisable. 

The crowd stopped outside while the constables led their 
charge into the hall to confront him with the squire. 

The prisoner shuddered as he passed the lodge-gates, and 
looked fearfully at the doorway. 

There was no one there. 

Up the broad walk he went, preserving the same dogged silence 
which had been unbroken since his capture. 

The officers led him into the library, where the squire sat, still 
trembling and exhausted from his recent encounter, Marks stand- 
ing near him. They pushed him into the middle of the room, 
and then the man raised his eyes. 

For a moment the squire looked at him wonderingly. Marks, 
who had turned white and trembled violently as the group 
entered, gave one agonized glance at the figure before him, and 
then, throwing up his hands, exclaimed in a tone of horror, 
' Master George !' 

The squire's eyes were fixed upon his son. He recognized him 
now through the dirt and the blood and the tatters. His lips 
shaped themselves to speak, he rose trembling from his chair, 
then, gasping out, ' My son ! It was my son !' fell forward a 
huddled-up mass upon the floor. 

In his terror Marks spoke at random ; the officers heard him 
upbraid the young man for what he had done, for making him 
an accomplice, as it were. 

Every word that the old servant gasped out over the senseless 
body of his master was a link in the chain of evidence against 
the son. 

George made no answer. 

He stood like a man in a dream, dazed, almost unconscious of 
what was going on around him. 

They raised the squire and put him in his chair again, but his 
eyes wandered vacantly round the room, and he kept mumbling 
to himself, ' My son ! It was my son !' 

The shock had unhinged his reason. 



/S SLIGHTLY RETROSPECTIVE. 155 

CHAPTER XXXI. 

IS SLIGHTLY RETROSPECTIVE. 

We left Mr. Jabez Duck, a few chapters back, in anything but 
a comfortable situation. 

When he had recovered from his astonishment at the sight of 
his sister, Miss Jackson, and Mrs. Turvey, he endeavoured to 
stammer out that he'd be back in a moment, and made for the 
door. 

But Georgina was too quick for him. 

' I must speak to you at once,' she said, imperiously, ' on 
private business.' The accent on the word private was marked 
and intentional. 

Mrs. Turvey took the hint. 

' Which if I am in the way, Jabez, let me go into another 
room while this person tells you her business.' 

Now Mrs. Turvey knew very well that Georgina was Jabez's 
sister, and Georgina was quite aware of Mrs. Turvey 's identity, 
but it pleased them both to affect the most supreme ignorance. 

' Jabez,' exclaimed Miss Duck indignantly, ' who is this female 
who addresses you so familiarly, and calls me a " person " ?' 

' Who am I ?' gasped Mrs. Turvey, fairly roused by Georgina's 
manner, and coming bustling up close to her. ' I'll let you 
know who I am, madam. I'm not a female. I'm a respectable 
hard-working woman, as isn't going to be humbugged about any 
longer by your precious oily snake of a brother.' 

'Ladies, ladies !' stammered Jabez, polishing his brow furiously, 
and bursting out into quite a watery shine with perspiration ; 
' pray, pray compose yourselves ! The firm will hear you. Pray 
remember where you are !' 

Jabez might as well have asked the north wind not to blow as 
Georgina and Mrs. Turvey to be quiet. They were fairly 
started on a race for the last word. Besides, weeks of pent-up 
scorn and indignation had to be worked off. In vain Jabez im • 
plored them to be silent. In vain Miss Jackson shed tears and 
urged Georgina, for her sake, to be calm. 

At last, when it was within an inch of a single-stick duel be- 
tween Georgina's parasol and Mrs. Turvey's umbrella, Jabez 
fairly lost his temper, and, rushing between them in time to 
receive both umbrella and parasol on his own unprotected and 
shiny bald head, seized the first combatant he could catch hold of, 
and dragged her away. 

It was Mrs. Turvey. 

That estimable lady, flushed, excited, and prepared for des- 
perate deeds, no sooner saw Jabez, as she presumed, espouse his 
sister's side, than with a terrific effort she became suddenly calm. 



156 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Smoothing her ruffled finery and assuming a delicately sar- 
castic tone, she thus delivered herself : 

' I'll go, Mr. Duck — I don't want to be pushed out ; but I shall 
call again— not to see you, sir. I shall instruct Messrs. Grigg 
and Limpet to commence two actions at once, one for breach of 
promise against you, Mr. Duck, and one for deformation of 
character against you, Miss Duck ; which you, ma'am,' she added, 
turning to Miss Jackson, ' will be a witness as this person have 
said vile and ojus things about me.' 

' Oh,' moaned Miss Jackson, ' don't make me a witness ! Oh, 
I would rather cut my right hand off than let it go into a court 
of justice against my dearest friend !' 

1 Don't be a fool, Carry !' said Miss Duck curtly. ' Jabez, show 
that old woman out, or I'll go to the firm. I won't be insulted 
by a servant any longer.' 

Jabez had adroitly got Mrs. Turvey out of earshot, so that 
Georgina's last arrow missed its mark. 

He was some minutes before he returned. In the interests of 
peace he apologized to Mrs. Turvey, said his sister was to blame, 
and vowed on his honour to behave like a gentleman if Mrs. 
Turvey would only give him time. 

Mrs. Turvey allowed herself to be mollified so far as Jabez 
was concerned, but departed vowing the fiercest vengeance 
against his ' stuck-up minx of a sister.' ■»■ 

Georgina, when she had given her brother a thorough setting 
down over the Turvey incident, informed him of the visit of the 
police and the discovery of the Smiths' real character. 

Jabez for a time refused to believe it, but the evidence which 
his sister produced was circumstantial. Already his employers 
had discovered the forgery of which they had been the victims, 
and Jabez connected the two events. 

When he got home that evening the same detective who had 
searched the rooms called to see him, and requested him to say 
nothing about the affair to any one for the present. 

The reason he gave was that there was no knowing who be- 
longed to the gang, and if it once got about that the police were 
on the track the others would keep out of the way. 

In the hope of making a complete haul, the police for the pre- 
sent would take no steps to arrest the fugitive. If he was left 
alone, and not allowed to know that he was suspected, he would 
probably join some other members of the gang. 

Jabez listened to this explanation and promised to hold his 
peace, and also to allow the things found in the room occupied 
by George to be taken to Scotland Yard. 

The officer who had charge of the case was Sergeant Iveson, a 
well-favoured, middle-aged man, who looked like a country 
gentleman, and Jabez had every confidence in him. The officer 
also went to Grigg and Limpet, and received from them the 
forged cheque. They also agreed to take no steps which would 



IS SLIGIITL V RETROSPECTIVE. 1 57 

clash with those arranged by Sergeant Iveson, who had sole 
charge of the case. 

Late that evening Sergeant Iveson and Mr. Seth Preene met 
by accident, and what more natural than that they should have a 
little conversation ? 

' Found out who he is yet ?' asked the sergeant. 

' No,' said Preene ; ' but I'm sure he's a swell, and he's 
making quietly for his home, wherever it is. I suppose it's sure 
to be pretty straight against him ?' 

' I'll take care of that,' answered the sergeant. ' But this case 
won't pay, you know. There's no reward. Won't it be worth 
your governor's while to pay a good one ? You see if this chap's 
convicted there's an end to all inquiries about the forged 
cheques. You get him out of the way for a year or two and 
wipe the slate clean. I suppose the principal in the affair's 
right, ain't he ?' 

' Eight ? I should think so,' answered Mr. Preene. ' Look 
here, governor, you nab this fellow, and make him safe for a 
year or two, and I'll promise you a hundred on my own hook. 
Never mind about the woman ; she's never seen any of us, and 
can do no harm. She might complicate the case. I'll say a hun- 
dred and fifty — there !' 

With which magnificent offer Mr. Preene held out his hand to 
the sergeant, and shortly afterwards they parted. 

Sergeant Iveson bided his time before he looked for the run- 
away. In the interests of the firm of Smith and Co., Mr. Preene 
desired him not to act too precipitately. Smith and Co. wished 
to remove all trace of their connection with certain city offices 
and financial transactions before that accomplished forger, Mr. 
George Smith, was put upon his trial. 

Practically, for the present, the firm's City business was dis- 
solved. Brooks had gone down to Dover on an important 
matter, and Marston had followed him. Preene was in town, 
busy at his private residence over some mechanical operation in 
which he seemed to take a deep interest, and Josh Heckett had 
gone to a quiet little place in Surrey, for the benefit of his 
health 

It is singular that when he arrived with his travelling bag at a 
little inn some short distance from Heritage Park he wore the 
clerical garb. He was dressed in a suit of black, had on a white 
choker, and wore a clerical felt hat. He was accompanied by 
his son, a young gentleman, who treated his ' governor ' in a 
most respectful manner. They didn't talk much before the 
landlady, who waited on them, and they were very particular 
about their behaviour. 

But when they went out for little strolls in the neighbour- 
hood, the clergyman called his son ' Boss,' and garnished his 
conversation with strange, unclerical oaths. And Master Boss 
called his revered parent ' Josh,' and pattered to him in Mint 



158 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

slang, as though his education at the university had consisted of 
this very living language to the utter neglect of all the dead 
ones. 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

FATHER AND DAUGHTER. 

Bess was saved from witnessing the terrible scene of her hus- 
band's degradation. 

Old Marks, beside himself with grief and horror, yet had the 
presence of mind to keep her in the lodge. 

"'He persuaded her that her husband's safety depended upon 
her not being seen, and she stopped indoors throughout all the 
riot and hubbub. 

G-eorge had glanced anxiously among the crowd, fearing to see 
his wife's pale face and tears, but he was spared that blow. 

When he was gone, old Marks went back to the lodge like a 
man in a dream, and broke the terrible news to his daughter. 

Bess refused to believe it. She would have rushed out and 
gone to her husband there and then. She would have pro- 
claimed herself his wife gladly, now trouble had come upon him, 
but her father reasoned with her and showed her how futile 
such a course would be. 

' George does not want it known,' he told her, and Bess, 
remembering how secret George had kept their marriage, believed 
that her father was right. 

' What can I do ?' she moaned. ' I am his wife, and my place 
is by his side. He has got into all this trouble for my sake. But 
for me he could have gone away, and this horrible mistake would 
never have occurred.' 

' Mistake !' said old Marks ; ' don't you believe, then, that 
George is guilty ?' 

1 Guilty ! Listen, father. I know my George to be one of the 
bravest, noblest-hearted men in the world. How dare you insult 
him by suggesting that he is guilty ?' 

Gradually, as Bess now realised the position of affairs, she 
worked herself up into a state of excitement, and talked at 
random. She would do this, she would do that. She paced the 
little room, now weeping, now crying out that there was a plot 
against them, and that her father was in it. 

The old man endeavoured to calm her, promising that he would 
go up to the hall again, and get all the information he could. 

Marks himself fully believed the young squire guilty. A 
hundred little things recurred to his mind to strengthen his 
belief. George's mysterious arrival, travel-stained and penniless, 
his waiting till nightfall, and his desire to enter the hall unob- 
served when his father was alone, his hurried flight, and his 



FATHER AND DAUGHTER. 159 

mysterious instructions with regard to Boss — all these things 
pointed to the fact that the young man had attempted to rob his 
father, and in the struggle had injured him. 

Old Squire Heritage himself said as much. It was true he 
seemed bewildered, but to all the questions put to him about the 
strange and terrible business he simply murmured, ' My son ! my 
oidy son !' Marks felt as if he had been a traitor to his old 
master in the part he had played in the affair. 

' How could he ha' done it ? how could he ha' done it ?' he 
muttered to himself as, pale and agitated, he listened to the 
little group of servants talking near the house. 

No one doubted for a moment that the young squire was the 
guilty person. Had he not been caught red-handed ? Who his 
companion in the crime was they could only conjecture. He had 
got clear away. 

When Marks joined the group they turned on to him with a 
hundred questions. Had he let Master George in ? Had he 
heard anything about his daughter ? 

No one knew that Bess was even then at the lodge. George 
had been so cautious that, except to Marks, their arrival was a 
secret. 

The servants hazarded a hundred conjectures as to what could 
have led the young squire to commit such an awful deed. They 
had noticed his dusty clothing and his haggard look, and they 
had almost pitied him until they saw their old master's terrible 
condition, and remembered who was the cause of it. 

Marks, nervous lest he should, in his agitation, betray how 
much he knew, barely answered the questions addressed to him. 
He asked anxiously how the squire was, and learned that he was 
worse. Then he went back, heavy-hearted and red-eyed, to tell 
his poor girl as hopeful a tale as he might. 

On the way he met a constable who had been searching the 
grounds. 

The man stopped him. 

' You are the gate-keeper ?' he said. 

' Yes,' stammered Marks, for the man was eyeing him keenly. 

' Did you let young Heritage in through the gates or see him 
pass ?' 

' I let him in.' 

' Was he alone ?' 

Marks went hot and cold. Was Bess to be dragged into this 
dreadful business ? He had heard of the London lawyers and 
trials, and how all your life came out in court, and how they 
cross-examined you till your heart was laid bare. Was he going 
to be treated like this ? He remembered that he had enticed 
the dog away, and his heart almost stood still. Why, in a court 
of justice he would seem to be in league with the accused ! 
And Bess ! They would make out, ten to one, that it was through 
her it all came about ! 



160 EOGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

He stammered out something to the constable about not being 
quite himself. 

' You're agitated now,' said the constable, ' and no wonder. 
It's a nasty affair for the family. You're an old servant, I be- 
lieve ? Well, I'll come and see you to-morrow, and take a note 
of your evidence. Did you have any conversation with the 
young man when he came in ?' 

'A little.' 

' All right. Well, think it over to-night, and let me know to- 
morrow what it was. You'll be an important witness. Good- 
night.' 

Marks hardly knew how he got back to the lodge. 

Once inside, he bolted the door, and fell into his old arm- 
chair a prey to the greatest agitation. 

Bess came from the inner room, her eyes SAVollen with 
weeping. 

' Bess, my lass,' said the old man, in a hollow voice, ' there's 
bad news. The old squire's worse, and everybody thinks as 
Master George is guilty. The police are working up evidence 
a'ready, and they want me.' 

' You will tell them, father, that it could not be George, won't 
you ? You will tell them he came down here to ask his father's 
forgiveness, not to rob and injure him.' 

' I'm afraid, my lass, that nothing I could say would do 
Master George much good. I fear it 'ud only do him a power o' 
harm. There's one thing we can do for him as I'm sure he'd be 
glad on.' 

' What's that, father ?' said Bess eagerly. 

' Get away from here, both on us. He don't want you mixed 
up in it, I know, and I'd sooner cut my right hand off than go 
and speak agen him in court.' 

At first Bess would not hear of flight, but gradually her 
father persuaded her that for George's sake it was the best thing 
possible. 

Besides, what could she do if she remained ? 

She would be a marked woman ; something for the curious to 
gaze at, and for the neighbours to talk about. When the trial 
was over, and George's innocence was proved, then she could 
show herself among her old companions without a blush. She 
had not her husband's permission even to call herself by his 
name. 

She was still Mrs. Smith. She could not take advantage of 
his position to proclaim herself Mrs. Heritage. Her father was 
right. 

It was best for all that they should get away from Heritage 
Hall at once. It was no home for her now, and her father de- 
clared he could never look the old squire in the face again. 

' I shall feel like a thief, stealing away in the night,' he said ; 
'but, for Master George's sake, I must do it. If they got me 



FA THER AND DA UGH TER. 1 6 1 

before the lawyers, and made me speak what I know, it 'ud hang 
him.' 

' Father !' 

Bess had seized the old lodge-keeper by the arm, and her face 
was ashy-white. 

' No ! no ! I don't mean that, my lass,' he said, trying to soothe 
her. ' That's only a manner of speaking, like. Of course there 
ain't no murder in it. Squire '11 be all right in a day or two.' 

' And G-eorge will be free ?' 

' Ay, ay, my lass, o' course he will ; and till then you and I 
will go up to London, and keep out o' the way o' curious folk, as 
wants to know more o' their neighbours' business than is good 
for 'em. We'll go up to London, and bide till we hear news o' 
the young master.' 

In the silence of the night an old man and a young woman 
stole out of the gates of Heritage Park. 

The old man looked back with lingering glances at the old 
place which had been home to him for forty years. 

He had his little store of money with him, and something that 
he prized beyond gold — his greatest earthly treasure — his Bess. 

Miserable as were the circumstances that had reunited them, 
he yet felt his load of trouble lightened when he remembered 
that she was by to cheer him. 

' Cheer up, my girl !' he said, as they passed into the darkness. 
' It was an evil day when the squire cast his son off, and it's 
brought nothing but trouble ; but, please God, all will come 
right yet.' 

Bess made no reply. 

She was thinking of how hopefully, a few short hours since, 
she had come back to the old place, and wondering how anybody 
could possibly believe her dear, kind, gentle husband guilty of 
the terrible crime of which he was accused. 



CHAPTER, XXXIII. 

HUNTED DOWN. 

The trial of George Heritage for breaking into his own father's 
house and, in conjunction with some person not in custody, 
carrying off jewellery and other articles of value, made an 
enormous sensation, and the accounts were eagerly perused by 
all classes of readers. They penetrated even to the society 
honoured by the presence of Mr. Boss Knivett, and that young 
gentleman took the liveliest interest in the proceedings, com- 
municating all the facts with the greatest gusto to Mr. Josh 
Heckett who unfortunately was not able to read them for him- 

11 



1 62 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

self, having in early life been denied the inestimable blessings of 
education. Every romantic element that could heighten the 
interest of the story was present, even to the mysterious dis- 
appearance of witnesses. 

Directly after the event the old lodge-keeper had disappeared, 
and it was supposed he had gone to join his daughter, a young 
woman who was reported to know a good deal about the 
accused. 

It was suspected that Marks was keeping out of the way 
rather than give evidence against his young master, and every 
effort to trace his whereabouts was unsuccessful. 

The old squire could not be called as a witness, for his brain 
was still affected. He recognized no one, and would sit all day 
staring into vacancy, and moaning, ' My son ! my son !' 

Young Heritage had been found near the scene of the crime, 
hiding and breathless, but none of the property had been found 
on him. That, of course, the confederate might have got away 
with, for there were evidently two persons concerned in the 
outrage. 

The prisoner, who was described by the special reporters as a 
prepossessing young man, told a fairly plausible tale about his 
having returned to ask his father's forgiveness, but his whole 
conduct in running away and in hiding was opposed to such a 
solution. Why should he run away ? 

In the absence of all evidence that could lead to a conviction, 
the magistrates, after a few remands, decided that the prisoner 
must be discharged, and he was set at liberty. 

Hardly had he left the dock, however, when he was arrested 
and conveyed to London, there to take his trial on a more 
serious charge. He had been recognized and sworn to in court 
as one who, under the alias of George Smith, had been engaged 
in extensive frauds. 

In due course poor George found himself undergoing a pre- 
liminary examination in a London police court. The bolt had 
fallen ; the warning of his mysterious friend had been justified ; 
and he was charged with committing the forgeries which he had 
now no doubt had been the principal business of his respected 
employers, Messrs. Smith and Co. Mr. Jabez Duck's shiny head 
no sooner appeared in the box than George knew how tightly 
the meshes were being drawn around him. 

During the interval preceding the trial Marks managed to 
obtain an interview with him in London. It was short and 
bitter, for the old lodge-keeper firmly believed that his young 
master had made him an innocent accomplice in a deed of 
violence. George, however, was glad to see him, for he made 
him understand how necessary it was that Bess should in no 
way be mixed up with this new charge, and that he was to keep 
her out of the way until the trial was over. 

'Whatever happens, Marks,' he said gently, 'don't let me 



HUNTED DOWN. 163 

drag her down with me. My only consolation now is that I 
know she is safe with you.' 

' Come what may, Master George,' answered the old man, his 
voice husky with emotion, ' my gal shall never know a moment's 
misery as I can help.' 

Then they parted almost coldly, for George somewhat re- 
sented his father-in-law's implied doubts as to his innocence of 
the outrage at the hall. But George felt that he was acting 
rightly in extorting a promise from Bess's father to keep her 
out of the way, though he would have given the world to clasp 
her to his arms and cheer her up. 

' I did not acknowledge her when I could hold my head high,' 
he said to himself ; ' she shall not acknowledge me now I am a 
suspected felon.' 

Amid all his misery, broken in spirit and broken in heart, the 
old pride struggled for mastery and won. He had an odd idea 
that he was doing the correct thing by the lodge-keeper's 
daughter he had married in not allowing her to see him or to 
acknowledge the tie that bound them now he was in such an 
unfortunate and degraded position. 

At the trial Mr. Jabez Duck told, with many embellishments 
and at least two poetical quotations, how this dreadful young 
man had been admitted to the bosom of his family under the 
name of Smith. Then the detective bobbed up in the box to 
produce the implements of forgery and the records of crime 
found at Mr. Smith's lodging. The clerks from the bank swore 
to him as the person who had presented the forged cheque of 
Grigg and Limpet's. Then an expert in handwriting proved 
that the endorsement, ' Smith and Co.,' tallied with certain 
writings admitted to be George's, found at his rooms and on his 
person. Link by link the chain of evidence was completed. 
Defence there was practically none, but a firm denial on the 
prisoner's part, and a cock-and-bull story of having been the 
victim of some vile plot, which had not even the merit of 
originality. It was just the sort of story clever rascals do invent 
as a last resource. Doubtless there were other people concerned 
in the matter, but they were his confederates, not his em- 
ployers. 

George stood and listened as the evidence grew blacker and 
blacker, and at last began to wonder if it could be true — if he 
had lived two lives and didn't know it. 

When he saw that against such damning facts he could make 
no defence, he gave himself up to his fate. Bess, thank God, 
was with her father. The old man had saved money, and 
would provide for her. She, at least, need not share his shame. 
His marriage with her was a secret, and there was no one to 
prove she was the girl who had been known as Mrs. Smith at the 
little house at Dalston. 

All he could do in support of his plea of ' Not guilty ' would 

11—2 



164 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

be to tell an explanatory story, which he knew his Bess, 
when she read it, would believe, whatever her father and the 
world did. 

He put the whole plot against him down to Smith and Co. 
He believed in his own heart that he had been made a scapegoat 
purposely by them ; that they had known who he was all along, 
and had had a hand in the burglary. It was a clever plot, and 
it had succeeded. He was ruined for life, but he had not any- 
thing on his conscience. He was deeply grieved at his father's 
condition, and felt partly responsible for it, but of the hideous 
guilt attributed to him in that respect he knew he was inno- 
cent. 

His stoical calmness deserted him as the time grew near for 
the verdict. The trial had been a long one. The element of 
doubt in the case had at one time been strong, but the police 
evidence had turned everything against him. 

He was found guilty by twelve intelligent fellow-countrymen, 
and a long sentence of penal servitude was pronounced against 
him by the judge, who went out of his way to point a moral on 
the evils of young men being extravagant, getting into debt, and 
keeping bad company. 

When George heard the sentence and was removed, it seemed 
as though a high wall were suddenly built up about his life. 
The sense of injustice faded before the sudden feeling of intense 
loneliness which fell upon him like a chill. He hardly realized 
all it meant at first. He had only that strange sense of desola- 
tion which comes upon anyone left alone in a strange place as 
his friends and companions vanish from his view. 

When the warder touched him on the arm to lead him below, 
and the eyes of the thronged court were fixed upon his face, he 
made a sudden effort to rouse himself from the lethargy into 
which he seemed to have fallen. He stepped to the front of the 
dock, and exclaimed in a loud, clear voice : 

' As God is my witness, I am an innocent man !' 

The famous trial was over, and the verdict was published in 
special editions. The public quite agreed with the judge's 
moral. 

Messrs. Marston and Brooks read it and chuckled. The link 
was broken. The stories about Smith and Co. told by George 
were disbelieved, and, as George Heritage had been proved to be 
the author of the series of forgeries on the banks, there was an 
end to inquiry. The slate of Smith and Co. was wiped clean by 
the arrest and condemnation of their clerk, and they might 
begin again. Never was there such a stroke of luck as the 
burglary business. Without it George's story might have led to 
serious inquiries. As it was it would be unwise to start in 
business again on the same lines, thought Marston, and luckily 
there was no necessity, for a far more brilliant scheme was oa 



HUNTED DOWN. 165 

the tajris, the success of which would enable Smith and Co. to 
dissolve, and trade with their capital in a less dangerous 
manner. 

Josh Heckett heard the result through young Mr. Knivett, 
and the worthy pair drank G-eorge's health in a bumper. 

' Reg'ler bad un he must be, Josh, for to break into his own 
father's 'ouse, mustn't he ?' said Mr. Boss. 

' Orf ul,' answered Josh. ' But there, it's what them preaching 
coves sez about the sarpent and the ungrateful child. There's 
my young un as is gone away and left her poor old grandfather, 
the jade ! and I duuno where she is no more than the man in 
the moon.' 

' Is that why you've moved, and given up the animals, Josh ?' 

' Yes, it is,' answered Josh. ' I couldn't attend to that busi- 
ness myself, and, the starf of my old age bein' broke, I had to 
retire into private life.' 

'Werry private, eh, Josh?' said Mr. Boss, with a grin. 
' Wanted a breath o' fresh air, didn't ye, old man, and went into 
the country for to git it, and got it ?' 

Josh Heckett laughed, and told his young friend to ' cheese 
his patter and sling his hook.' 

Which Mr. Boss, translating as instructions to hold his tongue 
and go, proceeded to obey with alacrity. 

Heckett didn't allow any nonsense from his juniors, and he 
considered Boss much too flighty and flippant ever to make a 
sound man of business. 

After Boss was gone, Heckett, who now occupied two rooms 
in a little house over the water, went out and walked down to 
his old place in Little Queer Street. 

He still kept it on, locking the rooms and going there occasion- 
ally to look after it. 

He had only taken enough of his furniture away to fill his 
rooms. There were still several old boxes and bundles and odds 
and ends left. And all these were piled in one room— the back 
one. 

Pushing a box and a heap of rubbish away, Josh had brought 
a lantern from the inner room and lit it, stooped down, and 
lifted the trap in the flooring. 

It was so well contrived, and the dust and dirt lay over it so 
thickly and well, that no one would suspect its presence unless 
accident, as in Gertie's case, revealed it. 

To lift the board Heckett had to insert the blade of his knife 
and force it up. 

When it was open he stooped over, carefully holding the light, 
and lifted up something near the top. 

It was only a small bundle of letters and some papers. 

' I wonder if they're worth anything,' he said to himself. 
' I wish I'd learned to read. Eddication ain't a bad thing, even 
in our profession.' 



1 66 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

The papers which he drew from their hiding-place were those 
which Squire Heritage had placed in his deed box the night of 
the robbery. 

The rings and bracelets and the other valuables were not 
here. They had long ago been unset and disposed of in a 
market which has always been safe and still continues so. In 
fact, it is so safe that valuable jewels are almost as readily sold 
nowadays as they are easily stolen, and that is saying a great 
deal. 

Josh Heckett looked over his store, lifting up now this and 
now that, examining everything carefully and putting it back 
again. 

Taking up odds and ends haphazard, he drew out a little 
bundle carefully tied up, which had evidently not been disturbed 
for years. 

The wrapper was yellow with age. 

' My poor girl's things,' he murmured . ' Poor lass ! it's ten 
year since I gathered 'em together and put 'em here to be safe, 
and I ain't set eyes on 'em since.' 

He opened the bundle and looked through it. He rubbed his 
great coarse hands carefully on his jacket before he touched the 
contents, then tenderly and reverently he lifted the dead girl's 
treasures from the bundle. 

There was the little locket she always wore when he took 
her out on Sundays ; there was the bit of blue ribbon, the last 
that ever decked her hair ; there were her thimble and her 
scissors ; there was the faded old daguerreotype of Josh and his 
wife and Gertie when she was a baby. He looked at the faint, 
blurred picture now, and he remembered the day it had been 
taken, when he'd driven the missus down to some cockney 
haunt, and the travelling photographer had persuaded him to 
have his likeness taken. There was a queer watery look about 
the old reprobate's eyes as he gazed at the coarsely framed and 
faded picture, and he gave a grunt that bore the nearest 
possible resemblance to a sigh which a man of his build and 
nature could accomplish. 

He put down the picture, rubbed the back of his hand across 
his eyes, cleared his throat, and then drew out a big leather- 
bound book. 

'My poor gal's Bible,' he said. 'She was mighty fond o' 
readin' it at times.' 

Josh eyed the outside of the Bible curiously. 

' They say it's a hinvallyable book,' he muttered ; ' but it don't 
look up to much. I should 'a thought a hinvallyable book 'ud a 
been bound in red or green and had a lot o' gold about it. This 
here's worth about fourpence, I should say. But she thought a 
lot on it, poor gal ; and I ain't going never to part with it for 
her sake.' 

Josh put the took back again without opening it. He 



A BUNCH OF VIOLETS, 167 

couldn't have read what was in it if he had. And yet there 
was that in his dead daughter's Bible which, had he known it, 
would have made his greedy eyes glisten and his evil heart beat 
quicker. 



CHAPTEE XXXIV. 

A BUNCH OF VIOLETS. 

Dr. Oliver Birnie, as the medical adviser of Mr. Gurth 
Egerton, called upon him now and then at his residence, and 
sometimes kept his brougham waiting outside while doctor and 
patient had a friendly chat. 

It was on one of these now frequent occasions that Mr. Eger- 
ton revealed to his old friend an idea which, vague at first, had 
at last begun to assume definite proportions. 

' Birnie,' said Mr. Egerton, one morning, flinging away his 
cigarette and looking straight in the doctor's face, ' I want some- 
thing to do.' 

' Do you ? Well, I can't give you anything, I'm afraid. My 
present coachman suits me admirably, and my boy delivers the 
medicines without a mistake.' 

' I'm serious, Birnie,' said Gurth, thrusting his hands deeply 
into his pockets and walking up and down the room. ' I'm sick 
of this humdrum existence. I've travelled and got tired of it, 
and now I want a change — I want something to do.' 

' My dear fellow, of course you do,' answered the doctor, 'and 
with your energy you might do anything. Collect postage- 
stamps, coins, fossils, write stories for the magazines, join an 
amateur dramatic club, go in for athletics, learn the banjo. 
Why, my dear fellow, with your leisure and your money, there 
is no end of things you might find to do !' 

G-urth turned almost savagely on his companion. The banter- 
ing tone displeased him. 

' Drop it, Birnie !' he said. ' Don't you know when a man's 
in earnest ? I'm sick of the useless life I lead, I tell you. I 
want something to engage my thoughts— something to call out 
the latent energy there is in me. I've got money, and I believe 
I've got brains, and yet I'm nobody. I don't mean to be nobody 
any longer.' 

' Good gracious me, Gurth, you astonish me 1' said the doctor, 
assuming a serious tone. ' I thought you shrank from publicity 
of any kind ! I always fancied that you hated society, and that 
being nobody was your favourite role' 

' That's done with for ever ! I'm a new man, Oliver Birnie ! 
The Gurth Egerton you knew was drowned in the Bon Espoir.' 

Birnie went up to Gurth, and took his hand professionally to 
feel his pulse. 



1 68 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Gurth snatched his hand away. ' Don't be a fool, old man !' 
he exclaimed. ' I know what I'm saying. I'm going in for a 
new life, and I want you to help me. Sit down.' 

Birnie sat down wondering what Gurth's new craze could be. 
He saw that banter was out of place, and that, whatever Gurth 
had got on his mind, it was evidently something which had been 
there a long time. 

For a moment the two men sat opposite each other in silence. 
Then G urth, with a slight tremor in his voice, began : 

' I'm going to talk about a time, Birnie, which we had both 
rather forget ; but I can't avoid it. Once in my life you did me 
a great service.' 

Birnie said nothing. He nodded his head, as much as to say, 
' I quite understand what you mean.' 

' For that service I have shown my gratitude in every way I 
can. I don't want to refer to it more than I can help ; but 
I think you have had no cause to charge me with a lack of 
appreciation.' 

Birnie's head implied, ' Certainly not !' 

' You not only rendered me that great service, but you have 
always guarded my interests during my long absences, and you 
have kept me from being annoyed by those who might have been 
very troublesome.' 

Dr. Birnie spoke for the first time. 

' My dear Gurth, don't give me too much credit. If I have 
kept Heckett from worrying you, I have done so by giving him 
what he asked for. When Marston turned up, I thought it best 
to accede to his request, and lend him five hundred pounds for 
you. I have paid your money away judiciously, my dear fellow, 
that is all — that is all.' 

Birnie shook his head deprecatingly, as though to shake from 
it the praise which was being undeservedly bestowed upon him. 

' I don't care what you say, Birnie ; you've always been a good 
old chum to me, and that's why I don't want to take an important 
step without asking your advice.' 

' My advice, Gurth, is always at your service.' 

' Well, then, shortly and simply, I've made up my mind to two 
things — to marry, and to get into Parliament.' 

Birnie received the intelligence without a movement ; only the 
look of his eyes altered slightly, and they seemed to study Eger- 
ton's face more keenly. 

' I congratulate you on both determinations, old fellow. Splen- 
did things, both of them — matrimony and the legislature. Which 
do you woo first — the lady or the constituency ?' 

Gurth laughed. 

' I haven't begun to look out the lady yet,' he said, ' or the con- 
stituency either. But don't you really see any reason why I 
should marry and become a public man ?' 

' None.' 



A BUNCH OF VIOLETS. 169 

Gurtb gave a little sigh of relief. 

Birnie rose to go. He shook hands with Gurth heartily. 

' I hope,' he said, ' that neither of your new ambitions will 
interrupt our old friendship, Gurth. We shall be always the 
same to each other as we have been, I trust ?' 

' Always,' answered Gurth with emphasis. 

Dr. Birnie sat back in his carriage, as he was being whirled 
through the London streets, and thought. 

He wasn't quite sure what this new idea of Gurth's meant, 
or what move on the board he ought to make in consequence 
of it. He was a man who never took any active steps if he 
saw a chance of events shaping themselves to suit his ends 
without his interference. Once or twice events had played into 
his hands so well that he was always inclined to give them a fair 
field. 

At present Gurth Egerton was only a gold mine, in which he 
had dug now and then for an odd nugget or two, but he had 
always considered that the mine was there, and that no one could 
very well dig in it without his permission. With Birnie the 
knowledge of power was almost as great a pleasure as the enjoy- 
ment of it, and he was, moreover, endowed with that great gift 
of patience which enables a man to bide a lifetime waiting to 
strike home, rather than risk giving a weak blow by striking in 
a hurry. 

Gurth Egerton believed that Birnie had given a false certifi- 
cate of death in Ralph's case out of friendship for him, and 
in his impulsive way he had there and then flung himself com- 
pletely into Birnie's hands, leaving him to live rent free, to 
manage his property, to pay all claims made upon him. Birnie 
was appointed executor to his will, and was in every way his 
confidential adviser. 

But one thing Gurth had not told Birnie, or anyone else, and 
that was that Ralph was married to old Heckett's daughter, and 
that consequently the child that cost Gertie her life, after the 
father's death had cost her her reason, was really the legitimate 
owner of the wealth which he, Gurth, was now enjoying — that 
is, provided Ralph's story was true, and not the brag of a vin- 
dictive drunkard. 

Gurth consoled himself with the fact that, beyond Ralph's 
statement to him, there was no proof of anything of the sort. 
The marriage certificate which Ralph had boasted of having in 
his possession had never been found, and Gurth was not likely 
to go searching registries and making inquiries in order to dis- 
cover that which at present it was perfectly allowable for him to 
know nothing about. 

From time to time he had heard of Heckett, generally by find- 
ing that gentleman's name figuring against a sum of money which 
Birnie had paid on his account. He had never seen him since his 
return, for the same reason that he had never seen any of his 



170 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

old companions. He had shunned them one and all. He had 
heard, too, from Birnie the story of Gertie's death and of the 
little Gertie who had grown up in Little Queer Street among the 
animals. He was pleased to hear she was a clean, tidy child, and 
that she seemed happy. Perhaps if he had heard of her being 
in rags and starving, it might have annoyed his conscience. As 
it was, he felt that Gertie was very well off ; he knew that old 
Heckett's dog-fancying and wretched surroundings were only 
covers for a very different occupation, and that there was no real 
poverty in the case at all. 

He supposed some day old Heckett would get into trouble or 
die, and then he would befriend Gertie, getting at her in a 
roundabout way, through Birnie, to avoid any suspicion of his 
having any interest in her but a philanthropic one. 

Gurth Egerton always kept a mental box of salve handy for a 
smarting conscience, and, when any of his misdeeds troubled him, 
he had always a scheme ready which would put everything right 
without doing himself any harm. 

But for his indecision of character, he might long ago have 
made his position far better than it was, but at the last moment 
he had generally abandoned his well thought-out scheme and 
' gone away.' 

Now, however, he was really determined to do something defi- 
nite — to lead a new life and put his wealth to some use. So he 
made up his mind to marry and to go into Parliament. 

The parliamentary career was a question of time. There was 
much to be done before he essayed that. He must get his name 
before the public a little first, make up his mind what his politics 
were going to be, and get about into society. 

With regard to matrimony, he felt that the sooner he thought 
seriously about that the better. There is a certain formula, to 
be gone through, even in the prosaic courtship which he intended 
his to be. He wanted a certain amount of beauty, a knowledge 
of the world, and an agreeable manner. He wanted to marry a 
head to his dinner-table, a hostess, a something to be agreeable 
to his guests, and to get him invited out. Wealth or rank he 
wasn't particular about ; that would be harder to get, and he 
might have a lot of rivalry. 

He stood in front of the glass and ran his fingers through his 
hair. 

Yes, he was fairly good-looking, still young, wealthy, and a 
pleasant talker. 

There was no reason why he should not secure just what he 
wanted if he kept his eyes open. He didn't want to fall in love; 
he had no idea of anything of that sort. 

And yet he did. 

His fate came to him as it comes to the most unromantic 
men. It came to him about a fortnight after his interview with 
fiirnie. 



A BUNCH OF VIOLETS. 171 

In his first desire to get his name well connected with philan- 
thropy for future benefit to himself, he gave twenty pounds to 
a bazaar in connection with some hospital for children, or some- 
thing of the sort. He wasn't quite sure what it was, but he 
saw that the appeals were going all over the parish, and so he 
sent his twenty pounds, to beat his neighbours and get his first 
advertisement. 

His donation brought him a letter of thanks from the vicar 
and a special request to be present. 

He went to the bazaar, to see the vicar and to show himself — 
to make a start on his new war-path. He flung away a pound's 
worth of silver on shapeless pincushions and impossible pen- 
wipers, and walked through the place, jostled and bored. He 
had shaken hands with the vicar, and been introduced to a canon 
and to a rich old lady patroness, and was elbowing his way 
through a crowd of giggling girls and cane-sucking young 
men, when a little girl stopped him with a timid request for his 
patronage. 

He looked down and saw a child whom he guessed to be about 
ten years old — pretty, pale-faced, with soft brown hair and big 
blue eyes. She held up to him a bunch of violets. 

' Please to buy a bunch of sweet violets, sir.' 
% He put his hand in his pocket. 

'I've got no silver,' he said. 

He looked into the child's face as he spoke, expecting to hear 
her say that gold would do. 

But the little one had not been trained to the brazen effrontery 
that leers and grimaces under the coquettishly worn mantilla 
of charity. 

' Oh, please, if you come to our stall we'll give you change. 
Come this way.' 

Gurth involuntarily followed the child to a stall in the corner, 
where a lady was selling flowers. 

The lady smiled as the child brought her prize up to be dealt 
with. 

Gurth thought it was the sweetest smile he had ever seen in 
his life. He forgot the child, forgot the flowers, and gazed in 
rapt admiration at the beautiful face before him. 

A strange thrill went through him as he looked — a feeling 
of ecstasy, such as that which comes over some natures when, 
in world-famed galleries, they stand for the first time in the 
presence of some matchless work of art. 

The young lady was too busy with her flowers and her change 
to notice Gurth's undisguised admiration. He almost started as 
she dropped the shillings into his hand, counting them one by one. 

He took the violets which the child had given him, and held 
thorn in his hand. 

Then he glanced at some which the lady had on her stall in 
front of her. 



172 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

'I think I must buy one of you, after giving you so much 
trouble,' he said gently. 

The lady picked up a bunch of violets and handed them to him 
with a smile. 

He dropped the nineteen shillings change into the hands of the 
beautiful flower-girl, and, raising his hat, walked away. 

As he did so, he heard the little girl cry out : 

'Ob, Miss Adrian, the gentleman's left my violets behind 
him!' 

' Run after him, quick, and give them to him,' answered the 
lady ; and in a minute the child had caught Gurth up, and was 
holding the violets towards him. 

' Thank you, little one,' he said, smiling ; ' you are very honest 
at your stall. What is the name, that I may recommend it to 
my friends ?' 

' The lady is Miss Ruth Adrian,' answered the child, taking 
the question seriously, ' and I am Gertie Heckett.' 

The violets dropped from Gurth Egerton's hand, and the colour 
left his face. 

For a moment his lips moved, as though he would have spoken 
to the child, then suddenly he turned on his heel, and, forcing 
his way through the crowd, struggled out of the building and 
into the air. 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

MRS. ADRIAN'S CONVEESION. 

Ruth had no necessity to find a home for Gertie, after all. Her 
mother, after having thoroughly aired her objections, and proved 
beyond a doubt that Gertie was endeavouring to turn her out of 
house and home, and that Ruth was endeavouring to bring her 
grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, had suddenly veered round, 
taken the child under her immediate protection, and insisted 
upon Ruth keeping her as long as ever she liked. 

Ruth, who had grown sincerely attached to Gertie, was only 
too delighted to take advantage of this change of attitude, and 
from that moment Josh Heckett's grand-daughter was treated as 
one of the family. 

Mrs. Adrian's conversion had been brought about in a very 
singular manner. 

Ruth's great friend in all her troubles was her father. He 
would come from Patagonia or the South Sea Islands in a second 
if she asked him a question, and he had always the heartiest 
sympathy with all her little schemes. 

Ruth asked her father's advice about Gertie. What was she 



MRS. ADRIAN'S CONVERSION. 173 

to do ? She couldn't send the child back. Of course, she 
intended that Heckett should know Gertie was safe, but she was 
determined, if possible, to keep her out of his clutches. She 
had hoped to be able to keep her for a little while until she could 
decide what to do, but her mother was so much against Gertie 
remaining. 

Mr. Adrian laid down his book. 

' Then you really wish to keep the child near you for a while ?' 
he said. 

' I do, indeed, father. I am in some measure responsible for 
her leaving home.' 

Ruth blushed as she spoke, for she remembered it was her 
anxiety to hear about Marston which had brought Gertie's 
trouble upon her. 

Mr. Adrian thought for a moment, then he rubbed his hands 
in evident glee. ' I have it, my dear,' he said. ' Your mother's 
objection to the child is the only thing we have to get over. 
Leave it to me to remove that.' 

That evening, after Gertie had gone to bed, the usual little 
group sat in the dining-room. 

Ruth was busy making nicknacks for a charity bazaar in which 
she was interested, Mrs. Adrian was knitting, and Mr. Adrian 
was deep in the adventures of a missionary who had gone out to 
Africa, and who for the first few hundred pages used his gun a 
good deal oftener than his Bible. 

Mr. Adrian read a few choice passages aloud, and speedily 
aroused the indignation of his better half. 

' Missionary !' exclaimed that good lady. ' Well, if he's a 
fair specimen of missionaries, I'm sorry for the heathen. 1 l's 
a queer way of converting a black man to put a bullet through 
him.' 

' But, my dear,' urged Mr. Adrian, ' it was in self-de- 
fence.' 

' Self- fiddlesticks ! What business had the man there, poking 
his nose into their wigwams and interfering ? How would you 
like a black man to walk in here and begin lecturing you ? You'd 
try to turn him out, wouldn't you ? And then because you did 
that he'd turn round and shoot you, and say it was self-defence. 
Bah ! I haven't patience with all this mischief -making in out- 
landish parts.' 

' But, my dear, much good is done. This missionary was a 
very famous man, and he converted them at last. Before he 
left, the natives used knives and forks instead of their fingers, 
and the king of one very ferocious tribe, of cannibal habits, had 
all his prisoners of war roasted on Saturday afternoon to avoid 
Sunday cooking. How would civilization be spread, my dear 
but for these explorers ?' 

1 Civilization !' exclaimed Mrs. Adrian, dropping half-a-dozen 
stitches in her excitement. 'Don't you think there's room 



174 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

for a little more civilization at home before we begin to give 
it away to the blackamoors ? Civilization ought to begin at 
home.' 

' You are wrong, my dear,' said Mr. Adrian, closing his book 
and preparing for battle. ' What do you say, Ruth ?' 

' I think we ought to do a good deal more at home than we do,' 
said Ruth gently. ' I think sometimes the black heathen get a 
great deal more sympathy than the white.' 

Mrs. Adrian declared Ruth was a sensible girl, and fired 
another volley at the enemy. The discussion had grown 
slightly heated when Mr. Adrian introduced the subject of 
Gertie, suggesting that the sooner Ruth found a home for her 
the better. 

Then Mrs. Adrian fired up. Of course he objected to Gertie 
because she was an English child ; if she'd been a black or a 
brown child he would have given her the best room in the 
house ; as she was white and English she was to be turned out 
at once. 

The more Mr. Adrian opposed Gertie, the more Mrs. Adrian 
championed her, until at last, for the sake of peace and quiet- 
ness, the master of the house gave way, and. consented, ' to 
please his wife's fad,' that the child should stay as long as Ruth 
liked. 

Thus were the heathen pressed into the service, and thus did 
Mr. Adrian win the battle by pretending to be beaten. It was 
not the first time he had won over bis wife to his way o'f think- 
ing by pretending to take an opposite view. 

From that moment Gertie, in the eyes of Mrs. Adrian, was 
the outward and visible sign of a triumph gained over her bctcs 
noires, the foreign ladies and gentlemen of missionary books of 
travel. The child by her presence represented a great moral 
victory, and Mrs. Adrian was her devoted champion from that 
hour. 

By her gentle nature and loving ways she rapidly endeared 
herself to all. Ruth was delighted, and her mind was relieved 
of a great burden. When Gertie had been with them a fort- 
night there was no one beneath the roof that would not have 
grieved sincerely and felt it a personal loss to be deprived of her 
sunshiny presence. 

Her early days with the Adrians were uneventful. At her 
earnest request Ruth had not apprised Heckett of her where- 
abouts. The child pleaded so hard, and seemed so terrified, that 
Ruth contented herself with sending a message by a trustworthy 
person to the old dog-fancier that his grand-daughter was in a 
good home. 

But the old man's attempt to find out where the home was 
situated, or who was at the bottom of the child's mysterious 
conduct, failed altogether. The message only reached him in 
a roundabout way, being left with the person who kept the 



MRS. ADRIAN'S CONVERSION. 175 

shop below his rooms, which Heckett only visited occasionally 
now. 

The first great event in Gertie's new life was the charity 
bazaar, at which, to her intense delight, she was allowed to assist 
at Ruth's stall. 

She came back full of it, and told Mr. and Mrs. Adrian at tea- 
time all about the gentleman who had bought her violets, been 
so curious about Ruth's name, and had seemed so much astonished 
when she (Gertie) told him her own. 

Mr. Adrian was much amused by Gertie's description of 
Egerton's admiration of Ruth and his eagerness to know her 
name. 

He looked across the table, and said with a smile : 

' Many a good match made through a charity bazaar, Ruth, my 
dear. Perhaps Gertie brought you a suitor.' 

It was only a joke, but Ruth's cheeks went scarlet. 

The words had touched a tender chord. She had been think- 
ing of Edward Marston. Since Gertie had come to her, she 
never looked at the child without thinking of him, and how 
strangely her little protegee had brought them together again. 

And now her father, speaking at random, suggested that Gertie 
had brought her a suitor. 

The words fitted in so perfectly with the thought that was 
passing through her mind at the time, that the crimson blood 
rushed to her cheeks and suffused them. 

Had Edward Marston seen that blush, he would have known 
that his forgiveness was nearer its accomplishment than Ruth 
had given him any reason to hope. 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 

RIVALS. 

Mi:. Gurth Egerton, as soon as he had recovered from the 
astonishment in which his strange meeting with Ralph's little 
daughter had flung him, became aware of the fact that the 
beautiful face of Ruth Adrian had made a considerable impres- 
sion upon him. 

By what strange coincidence, he wondered, did this child cross 
his path at the very moment that he was dreaming of a new life 
— a life from which all remembrance of the past and all fear of 
the future were to be banished ? 

This little Gertie Heckett, whom he had always avoided see- 
ing, lest such conscience as he was burdened with might be 
troubled, had come upon him not in the den of Josh, not lead- 
ing the miserable life which he had imagined she might one day 



i-6 ROGUES AND VAGABOADS. 

be reduced to, but well dressed, hearty, and evidently well cared 
for. 

His first thought was one of self-congratulation. He felt 
inclined to pat himself on the back and say, ' See, you have 
done no harm to the orphan. If you are enjoying that which 
may by chance belong to her, she does not suffer through your 
act.' 

Having at last, by a process of reasoning, worked himself 
up into the actual benefactor of his cousin's child, he began 
to wonder what the connection between her and Ruth Adrian 
might be. 

He had two motives for following up the adventure of the 
charity bazaar, — first, to find out something about Gertie, and 
secondly, if possible, to cultivate the acquaintance of Ruth 
Adrian. Where Miss Adrian lived, or who she was, he had not 
the slightest idea ; but he imagined he could very soon get a 
link through the child. 

The first idea was to look up Heckett and question him about 
Gertie ; but he had a repugnance to renewing the acquaintance. 
He had studiously kept clear of Heckett, and he did not care to 
mix himself up again with that portion of the past. He deter- 
mined to rely upon his usual diplomatist, and lay the case before 
Oliver Birnie. 

But when he came to tell Birnie where he had met the child, 
the doctor was utterly astonished. 

' I haven't seen Heckett since he was ill,' he said, ' and then 
Gertie was at Little Queer Street. If she's left him, he's either 
given up the crib and gone away, or Gertie has taken French 
leave. But I can soon find out, if you particularly wish to 
know.' 

Birnie made his inquiries in his own way, and then all he 
had to tell Gurth was that Gertie had ' run away,' and that 
the old man had shut up the Little Queer Street establish- 
ment, and had not been seen for some little time in the neigh- 
bourhood. 

This information brought Gurth no nearer to an introduction 
to Miss Adrian, so he had to set his wits to work again. 

But before he could think of a plan, chance did away with the 
necessity. 

Marston, who now studiously cultivated his acquaintance, 
was walking with him one day, when a big dog came round the 
corner. 

Marston looked hard at it, and exclaimed, ' Hullo ! Ruth isn't 
far off ; here's Gertie Heckett's dog.' 

Gurth clutched his arm. 

' Ruth — Gertie Heckett !' he cried. ' Good gracious me, how 
could I have been so stupid ? Why, of course you can tell me 
all about it. How comes the child away from Josh ?' 

Marston looked under his eyes at his companion. 



RIVALS. 177 

' How should I know anything about Josh Heckett's domestic 
affairs ?' he said coldly. 

' Why you see him, I suppose, now and then ?' 

'My dear fellow, I thought you knew that I had cut all that 
crew long ago. I know no more of him than you do.' 

' Well, at any rate you know Gertie Heckett, for you men- 
tioned her name.' 

' Of course I know her,' answered Marston, speaking slowly 
and deliberately, 'but only through her protectress, Miss Adrian. 
Gertie has been " rescued" — I believe that is the correct expres- 
sion — and the Adrians have adopted her. The Adrians are old 
friends of mine.' 

Gurth said 'Oh,' and was silent. 

He couldn't understand that beautiful creature being an old 
friend of dare-devil Ned Marston. 

Lion had come on well ahead, and it was fully two minutes 
before Gertie and Ruth came out of a shop and found themselves 
face to face with Marston and Gurth. 

Ruth coloured slightly as the two gentlemen lifted their hats, 
and Gertie, recognizing Gurth, exclaimed, ' Oh, it's the gentle- 
man that bought the violets.' 

Gertie did not seem at all astonished when Marston held out 
his hand to Ruth. 

It was evident that this was not the first meeting between the 
old sweethearts at which she had assisted. 

' Will you allow me to introduce my old friend, Mr. Gurth 
Egerton ?' said Marston. 

Gurth bowed again, and Ruth honoured him with a sweet 
smile. And presently the three were strolling along the street 
talking together, Gertie walking on a little way ahead with 
Lion. 

But Ruth cut short the interview by saying that Gertie and 
she had some calls to make, and Marston, taking the hint, said 
'Good-day,' and, taking Gurth's arm, left the ladies to finish 
their business by themselves. 

' What do you think of her ?' asked Marston, when they were 
out of ear-shot. 

1 Think of her ?' said Gurth ; ' why, that she's one of the most 
charming women I ever met in my life. I was awfully struck 
with her at the bazaar the other day.' 

' Yes, my boy,' answered Marston ; ' and she's as good as she 
is beautiful.' 

' You know her very well, then ?' 

Marston looked at Gurth for a moment, and then said quietly, 
' My dear fellow, I thought I told you we were old friends. I'm 
glad you like Ruth, for when we're married you can come and 
be our guest.' 

Gurth started back as though Marston had struck him a 
blow. 

12 



178 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' That lady — your wife ?' he stammered. 

'Yes, some day; why not?' said Marston. 'I'm doing well, 
I'm wealthy, and I shall soon command a good position. Why 
shouldn't I marry Ruth Adrian ?' 

' I don't know,' stammered Gurth, hardly knowing what he 
was saying. 'Why, I always looked upon you as a— as a ' 

' Say it,' cried Marston fiercely ; ' say it, Gurth Egerton. You 
always looked upon me as a scamp, as a penniless adventurer. 
Bah ! Times have changed for both of us. You are a rich man 
now ; you are ambitious, so am I. I have wiped out my old 
past as cleanly as you have yours. Let it be a race between us 
now if you like, Gurth Egerton — a race for wealth, a race for 
fame, for what you will. I shall beat you though you've had a 
ten years' start of me.' 

Gurth Egerton looked at his companion in wonder. His tone 
was one half of triumph, half of defiance. 

' As you will, Marston,' he said quietly ; ' but let us start 
fair. Is there any absolute engagement between you and this 
lady ?' 

' No,' said Marston ; ' but she is perfectly aware of my feel- 
ings towards her. We were engaged before — well, before I 
went abroad.' 

' Oh, I see ; then you merely hope for a renewal of old ties ?' 

' That is what I have set my heart on, and I generally accom- 
plish my ends.' 

' Good,' answered Gurth, lighting a cigarette, and offering one 
to his companion. ' We are both men of the world. Now listen. 
You say, let it be a race between us for wealth and fame. Well, 
wealth I have, and fame I can buy. Wealth you say you have, 
and I have no doubt if you haven't it at present you mean to 
have it. Let us make this race more exciting.' 

' What do you mean ?' 

'Merely this,' said Gurth, watching Marston keenly through 
the smoke, ' make Ruth Adrian's hand part of the stakes.' 

Marston's face flushed angrily. 

'A bad joke, Egerton,' he said, 'and one you may be sorry 
for.' 

' No joke, Marston ; I mean it. In my quiet way I have fallen 
in love with the lady, and I am in want of a wife. All's fair in 
love and war, and I don't think you have a chance. Therefore, 
why spoil mine ?' 

Marston was on the point of giving a fierce reply, but he sud- 
denly checked himself. He could fence better if he kept his 
temper. 

' You were always a laboured joker, Gurth,' he said ; ' but it 
won't do. You found it easy enough to get a fortune from 
Ralph, but I don't think you'll find it so easy to get a sweetheart 
from me, not even with Birnie's assistance.' 

Marston laughed an irritating little laugh, nodded his head, 



RIVALS. 179 

and walked away, leaving Gurth with a flushed face and clenched 
hand. 

It was half a threat, and Gurth felt it. In his own mind he 
believed that Marston was still an adventurer, and that his house 
of cards would soon come to grief. He had an idea that money 
could do anything, and he was quite prepared to find Marston 
throwing out a hint that he would leave the field clear for a con- 
sideration. 

The conversation of the morning had invested Ruth with new 
charms, and the sudden opposition which he had encountered in 
Marston had concentrated his designs. 

Ruth Adrian now became the central figure in his future. 

The idea of Marston daring to step between him and the ac- 
complishment of his project was too absurd. He would soon 
put that right. 

' Threaten me, do you !' he muttered to himself, as he turned 
towards home. ' Mr. Edward Marston, you must be looked 
after. Birds that want to fly over their neighbours' walls must 
have their wings clipped.' 

Pending an opportunity of becoming better acquainted with 
Ruth Adrian, Gurth occupied himself by developing his bump 
of curiosity. He was particularly anxious to discover the history 
of Mr. Edward Marston from the time he went to America, a 
broken-down adventurer, to the period of his recognition of Dr. 
Birnie, and his sudden blooming into the possessor of a suburban 
villa, a boundless ambition, and a remarkably handsome and 
agreeable sweetheart. 

Was she his sweetheart ? On mature consideration, Gurth 
Egerton decided that he had been taken in by Marston's brag. 
The idea of his really being a man of wealth and engaged to a 
lady like Ruth was too absurd. 

' Marston's a clever fellow,' he said to himself, ' and as unscru- 
pulous as any man I ever knew ; but I don't think I need trouble 
myself much about his opposition. He always was a braggart, 
and I dare say he's only trying to impose on me for some purpose 
of his own.' 

A week later Gurth Egerton had managed to render Ruth a 
service, and to become a welcome guest at the house. 

He had heard a portion of Gertie's story from Ruth, and 
had undertaken to see Heckett and secure from him an under- 
taking to leave the child unmolested in the care of her new 
friends. 

Ruth was very grateful for this service ; she had hesitated 
to ask Marstori, and she had not dared herself to open nego- 
tiations, as that would have at once revealed the child's where- 
abouts. 

Gurth had gone himself to Heckett, to the only address he 
knew, the Little Queer Street one, and had found the place shut 
up. He inquired of Birnie, but that gentleman could tell him 

\L — ~u 



180 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

nothing. For some reason or other Mr. Heckett had cut all hi3 
old acquaintances. 

Gurth was determined to know if possible, so he ascertained 
Marston's address and went round to him. 

He was struck with the comfort and taste of Eden Villa, and 
he began to think that perhaps, after all, Marston had had a 
windfall. 

He was received with easy courtesy, and Marston rather en- 
joyed the astonishment under which his visitor was evidently 
labouring. 

' By Jove, Ned, I'd no idea you were such a swell as this !' said 
Gurth, looking about him. 

' It isn't a bad crib,' answered Marston quietly ; ' but I'm look- 
ing about for an estate in the country ; I'm tired of town life. 
I want to get among the county families, you know, and run for 
the House as a Tory squire.' 

Gurth stared first, and then he burst out laughing. 

' What a chap you are, Ned,' he exclaimed ; ' why you talk as 
if you were a millionaire.' 

' All right, my boy,' answered Marston, rising, and standing 
with his back to the fireplace ; ' chaff away. You've seen me at 
the bottom of the tree, I know, but if you live long enough you'll 
see me at the top.' 

Something in Marston's manner checked the smile that came 
to Gurth's lip. 

' I hope so,' he said. ' I'm sure I shall be very glad, for the 
sake of old times. But while you are climbing up your tree, 
perhaps you wouldn't mind doing me a service.' 

' Name it.' 

' Well, I particularly want Josh Heckett's present address.' 

' How should I know ? I saw him once after I returned, that's 
all.' 

' He's left Little Queer Street.' 

' Has he, indeed ?' said Marston quite unconcernedly. ' Why 
are you so anxious to find him ? Do you want to make him a 
present, or to chat over old times ?' 

' Neither ; I want to see him about the child.' 

' Ah,' said Marston, ' pricking of conscience, eh ? I always 
thought, considering all things, you might have done something 
for Gertie's young un.' 

' What do you mean by " considering all things " ?' 

'As if you didn't know that Gertie is Ralph's child !' 

Gurth's face went suddenly pale, and his lips trembled as he 
stammered out some unintelligible words. 

Marston was utterly astonished at the effect his remark had 
produced, and he instantly suspected there was some secret con- 
nected with Gertie the discovery of which Gurth had reason to 
dread. Perhaps Ralph had left her something in his will. But 
whatever Marston thought, he was too good a diplomatist to say 



RIVALS. 181 

anything. He waited till Gurth had recovered his composure and 
pretended not to notice his confusion. 

'That's all nonsense,' said Gurth, with an effort. 'I'm quite 
sure you're wrong.' 

' Very likely,' answered Marston. ' It was only an idea of 
mine — a passing fancy. What is it you want to know about the 
child, now ?' 

Gurth hesitated. He was inclined to believe that Marston's 
story about Ruth was a pure fabrication. Still he hardly liked 
to say that he wanted to see Heckett on behalf of Gertie's new 
friend. 

' What do I want to know about the child ?' he said, after a 
pause. ' Oh, nothing much. I only wanted to see if I could do 
anything for her. She struck me as being a very intelligent 
little thing.' 

' Very,* answered Marston ; ' but she in very good hands now. 
Ruth is as good as a mother to her.' 

The familiar use of the Christian name grated on Gurth's 
ears. 

' Yes ; but I presume Miss Adrian does not propose to keep 
her always, and I thought ' 

' You need not trouble yourself about Gertie Heckett, my dear 
fellow,' answered Marston, lighting a cigar. ' I shall look after 
her. Her story's a very sad one, and I like to do good when I 
can. I'm going in for being a friend to the orphan, and I shall 
begin with Gertie Heckett.' 

' You don't mean it ?' 

' I do, my boy, seriously. If you want a field for your bene- 
volence you must look elsewhere. I object to your adopting 
Gertie — or Ruth. You'll excuse me now, won't you ? I'm going 
out of town by the afternoon train.' 

Gurth Egerton took the hint and his departure, more than 
ever unable to make his old comrade out. 

Marston went down by the afternoon train to Dover, where 
he had an important appointment ; and on the journey he began 
to think about Gurth. 

' He's sweet on Ruth, evidently,' he thought. ' If this job 
comes off right, I must go in and win at once. With a wife 
like that it will be my own fault if I don't go ahead. Fancy 
Gurth trying to cut me out there ! How strangely things come 
about !' 

From Gurth and Ruth, Marston's thoughts wandered to 
Gertie. He was morally certain she was Ralph's child. But 
of course Gurth was not responsible for that, and there was 
no proof. Why was Gurth so upset by what he said ? He 
had at any rate found out a weak point in his rival's armour, 
and he was not the man to lose sight of the fact if it ever came 
to fighting. 



1 82 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

CHAPTER XXXVII. 

SMITH AND CO. STAET IN A NEW LINE. 

Mk. Edward Maeston was taking the air at Dover. He had 
left town for the benefit of his health. One morning, walking 
upon the^pier, whom should he meet but Mr. Brooks, formerly 
the manager of Smith and Co. 

' Ah, how do you do ?' said Mr. Marston. ' Staying here ?' 

' Yes, for a little while,' answered Mr. Brooks. 

It was quite an accidental meeting, you see ; but, having met, 
what more natural than that they should take a stroll together. 

They strolled down towards the harbour and hired a rowing 
boat. 

' Want a man ?' asked the boatman. 

' No, thanks,' answered Mr. Marston. ' I'll row myself.' 

Mr. Brooks sat in the stern of the boat. Mr. Marston took 
the sculls and rowed a little way out. 

The sea was calm, and when they were some little distance 
from the shore, and the small craft moving about, Marston 
ceased rowing, let the boat float, and commenced to converse 
with his companion. 

' The box was sent off yesterday,' he said ; ' so that it will be 
at the parcels office this afternoon. You had better apply for 
it at once.' 

' All right ; let me thoroughly understand what I have to do.' 

' It's as simple as A B C,' answered Marston. ' Preene has 
bought for me five hundred pounds worth of bar gold and sent 
it down here by rail to be kept till called for. All bullion comes 
in special safes, and this must come that way. When you apply 
for the box it will be locked up in the safe and the clerk must 
get the key. Watch where he gets the key from.' 

' Yes, that's all easy enough. What else ?' 

' What else ? Well, I'm a key-collector, I am, and I've a great 
fancy to have a key the exact pattern of those that open the 
safes in which the bullion travels.' 

' You want an impression ?' 

'Exactly.' 

Mr. Brooks nodded ; he quite understood his instructions so 
far. But he wanted to know a little more still. 

'And suppose we get an impression and file a key, where are 
we then ?' he asked, leaning over the boat and paddling with his 
hand in the water. ' There are always people about at the 
office, and the safes are always well watched at the stations.' 

' Brooks, you are delightfully innocent. How I envy you that 
romantic freshness which becomes you so well !' 

' Stow it, guv'nor,' said Mr. Brooks, a little nettled. ' We 



SMITH AND CO. START IN A NEW LINE. 183 

can't all be such swells at the game as you are. I don't see any- 
thing particularly innocent in what I've said.' 

' Don't be cross, old man ; it's only my chaff. Of course I 
can't expect you to know everything. This is my idea. I've 
invested five hundred in it, so you may be sure I think it's a 
good one. We don't want to open the safes at the station. We 
shall open them in transit.' 

Mr. Brooks opened his eyes. 

' How on earth will you do that ? Why the safes are carried 
in the guard's van, and they're locked with patent keys, and 
they're weighed at start and finish.' 

' Oh, you know all about it then ?' 

' Of course I do ! Lots of us have had an idea of getting at 
the bullion ; but when we found out the precautions taken, we 
saw it was impossible.' 

'Impossible to you, said Marston, quietly, 'but not tome. 
You do as I tell you, and leave the rest in my hands. I want 
your help — that's why I told you to meet me here. We did the 
cheque business well enough together, and we've come out of it 
safe and sound, with a fair balance, and the George Smith busi- 
ness was managed A 1.' 

' Wasn't it prime ?' said Mr. Brooks, with a chuckle. ' Upon 
my word, when I read the evidence, I feel convinced myself that 
he must be guilty. Preene did it first class. Is he on this 
job?' 

' I think he must be,' answered Marston. ' His connection 
with the police is invaluable. He can always put them on a 
wrong scent till all's safe. Who else will be in it ?' 

' Only Heckett and Turvey the guard.' 

' Oh, you've got the guard, then ?' 

' Yes, he was indispensable. The chance of a cool thousand 
settled him. Heckett we can't do without. None but a profes- 
sional could do the job with the safes and the boxes clean enough. 
Barker, one of the clerks in the traffic office, is a little bit in 
the swim. He knows nothing, but Preene knows something 
about him, and he's got orders to do certain things this after- 
noon.' 

Mr. Brooks was very much interested, and wanted more in- 
formation, but Marston told him it would be time enough for 
further details when the first stage had been accomplished. 

1 It's no good telling you any more,' he said, ' until we've got 
the keys. Then you shall have the whole plan.' 

' Just one thing more,' urged Mr. Brooks. ' What will the job 
be worth V 

' Unless I can make it a big figure I shan't touch it,' answered 
Marston. ' It's my last business transaction previous to retiring 
into private life ; so I want it to be a profitable one. I shan't 
think of making the attempt till I know that at least £20,000 is 
going down the line. That's a sum that often goes from London 



1 84 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

to the Continent, and it is by the Continental mail we shall have 
to travel whenever the coup comes off.' 

Brooks looked at Marston with such an admiring glance that 
the latter couldn't help laughing. 

1 We'd better get ashore,' he said, presently. ' You must take 
plenty of time, and have everything ready when you apply this 
afternoon for a box of bullion as Mr. John Dawson.' 

Marston rowed towards the shore, giving his companion a few 
parting instructions, and, having landed, they separated. Marston 
went to the Lord Warden, where he was staying in first-class 
style, and Mr. Brooks walked quietly to his less pretentious but 
equally comfortable hotel, the Dover Castle. 

All that afternoon Mr. Barker, a clerk in the traffic superin- 
tendent's office at Dover, rather neglected his business. He had 
too sharp an eye on the parcels office to be thinking of anything 
el^e. 

About three o'clock a train was due in. Just before it arrived an 
elderly gentleman stepped into the parcels office and asked if a 
box of bullion, forwarded from London to John Dawson, Dover, 
had arrived. 

' Yes, it has,' said the clerk. 

' I am Mr. Dawson,' said the gentleman, handing in a letter 
from the sender, advising its despatch to him. 'I'll take it, 
please.' 

The clerk went to where the safe stood securely locked. The 
bcx of bullion was inside it. 

Keys of these safes are kept at each end. They are locked in 
London and unlocked at their destination. The keys themselves 
are always kept locked up. Mr. Dawson's eyes followed the 
parcels clerk closely as he went to get the keys. 

He opened a small cupboard in the corner of the room and 
took down the keys that hung inside it. There were two 
i eparate locks to the safe, for increased security. 

He put the two keys into the safe, unlocked it, and withdrew 
the box of bullion, and handed Mr. Dawson a receipt to sign. 

At that moment, Mr. Barker, the clerk from the traffic super- 
intendent's office, called across the station to the parcels clerk, 
1h; train came in, and for a few minutes there was considerable 
confusion. 

Barker had called the clerk out to show him something in the 
station. The excuse was prearranged and plausible. In two 
minutes he was back again. 

Mr. Dawson had signed the receipt. He handed it to the 
clerk and took away his box of bullion. He also took away an 
impression in wax of the two keys that unlocked the safes 
which travelled up and down the line with thousands of pounds 
worth of gold in them. 

Late that evening he had a moonlight stroll along the cliffs 
and met Mr. Edward Marston, 



RUTH ANSWERS A LETTER. 185 

' They were double keys, guv'nor,' said Mr. Brooks, ' and it 
was jolly sharp work, I can tell you !' 

'And good work,' answered Marston, approvingly, offering 
his companion a cigar. ' We will go up to town to-morrow 
and set to work on the keys. If this comes off right, I think 
Smith and Co. can divide the profits and dissolve partnership — 
ch, Brooks ?' 

' You won't turn the game up for a few thousand, guv'nor — 
not you !' 

'My dear fellow,' answered Marston, 'you forget I am only 
an amateur. I simply do this to acquire a modest competency 
in return for the expenditure of a little time and considerable 
talent. If I can put ten thousand pounds at my banker's over 
this affair, I shall marry and settle down into a quiet, church- 
going, turnip-growing country gentleman.' 

Brooks laughed at the idea, but Mr. Marston was never more 
serious in his life. 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

EUTH ANSWERS A LETTER. 

Mr. Gurth Egerton's interest in Gertie Heckett was some- 
thing wonderful. It took him often to the residence of the 
Adrians. There he was now a welcome guest, for he had soon 
found out Mr. Adrian's weak side and opened fire upon it. 

In his travels he had been among some of the interesting 
people Mr. Adrian delighted to honour, and his conversation 
was almost as interesting as the books. Marvellous stories had 
Gurth to tell of foreign lands, and especially of those lands 
where the natives were of the barbarous type dear to Ruth's 
father. 

Either Egerton had seen a great deal, or he was a good 
romancer. But, whether he dealt in fact or in fiction, his 
wares were attractive enough to command old Adrian's custom, 
and Gurth never called and stayed ' just to have a cup of tea ' 
without being invited again and pressed to come early. 

Gurth's account of his bachelor loneliness had not been lost 
upon Mrs. Adrian, and as he never contradicted her, but set 
himself studiously to please her, he gradually won his way into 
the old lady's good graces. 

Ruth was grateful to Gurth for the interest he took in Gertie. 
She knew he was rich, and she had heard he was a charitable 
gentleman. He entered into all her philanthropic schemes, 
begged that she would be his almoner and let him know of any 
deserving cases she came upon in her visits to the sick and poor. 
Altogether Gurth Egerton proved himself a most desirable 



186 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

acquisition to the Adrian family circle, and was highly approved 
of by everyone but Lion. 

Lion always growled at him, and nothing would induce him 
to be friendly. 

Gertie apologized for her favourite's behaviour, and Gurth 
turned off the unpleasant effect of the dog's determined 
hostility with a joke. 

Mrs. Adrian, when Lion had, on the second or third occasion 
of his rudeness to her visitor, been turned out of the room, 
suggested that the dog had been brought up among low people, 
and had low people's natural antipathy to gentlefolks. 

Ruth did not take up the challenge on Gertie's behalf. She 
knew that her mother had really grown fond of the child, and 
that she could no more help saying spiteful things occasionally 
than Lion could help growling. In both cases 'it was their 
nature to.' 

Gurth played his cards so well and grew so rapidly in favour 
with the Adrians that he soon felt emboldened to allow his 
feelings for Ruth to become gradually apparent. 

Ruth was the last person to perceive the impression she had 
made, and it was forced upon her by a little conversation which 
is worth repeating. 

One evening, when the Adrians were alone, and after Gertie 
had gone to bed, something brought up Gurth's name, and then 
Marston's. 

' They're not to be named in the same breath,' said Mrs. 
Adrian, looking Ruth full in the face. ' Mr. Egerton's a man 
that any girl might be glad to marry. I wonder he hasn't been 
snapped up long ago.' 

' Lion would have snapped him up once or twice if we had let 
him,' said Mr. Adrian with a smile. 

' Don't be ridiculous, John ; you know what I mean. Look 
how he sits on his chair. Like a gentleman. As to Mr. 
Marston, I never see him tilting the dining-room chairs back but 
I expect to see the legs come off. He'd ruin the furniture in a 
decent house in a month.' 

Ruth laughed. 

Marston had offended her mother mortally by his habit of 
sitting with his chair tilted. 

' You may laugh, Ruth,' continued the old lady ; ' but if ever 
you have a house of your own you'll know what it is to see your 
dining-room suite going to pieces before your very eyes. People 
that can't sit in chairs like a Christian oughtn't to come into 
respectable houses. I'm sure I expect to see him sit on the 
table and put his legs up the chimney some day.' 

' You're very hard on Mr. Marston, mother,' said Ruth ; ' he's 
lived in America many years, and you know they do very curious 
things there.' 

'Very, my dear. Oh, I know that. And I dare say Mr. 



RUTH ANSWERS A LETTER. 187 

Marston's done a good many curious things there. Of course, 
my dear, I haven't forgotten what was between you once, but I 
hope that'll never happen again.' 

Ruth coloured and bit her lip. 

Mr. Adrian noticed it, and tried to turn the conversation by 
talking about the weather, but Mrs. Adrian was not be so easily 
turned from her course. 

' It's no good looking at me like that, John,' she exclaimed. 
' I know what you mean. Isn't Ruth my daughter as much as 
she is yours ? I say I should like to see her well married ; and 
if I was a young girl Mr. Gurth Egerton shouldn't ask me twice 
— there now !' 

' But, my dear Mary,' urged Mr. Adrian, ' Egerton hasn't 
asked Ruth once yet.' 

' Of course not. But, if I know anything, he will before very 
long. What do you think he comes here for?— to chatter to 
you about the Ojibbeways, or to hold my worsted for me ? 
Nonsense ! He comes here after Ruth — and you must all be 
blind if you can't see it.' 

Ruth let her mother finish. It was not quite a revelation to 
her, this view of Egerton's continual visits, but it had never 
come home to her so thoroughly before. Her mother was quite 
right. She saw it all now. She must act decisively and at 
once. • 

' Mother,' she said, after a pause, ' I hope you are not right. 
Mr. Egerton has been a very kind friend to me, and I like him 
as a friend and acquaintance very much. I could never look 
upon him in any other light.' 

Ruth gathered up her work and went up to her own room. 
It was a habit of hers to do so when any little thing put her 
out. 

' There, John,' said Mrs. Adrian, as the door closed behind 
her ; ' you see — I'm sure I'm right. There goes her head, 
turned by that fellow again. I was afraid what it would be 
when you let him come dangling about here again.' 

' How could I refuse him, my dear ? He is an old friend of 
the family. He and Ruth knew each other as children. He 
has lived down the first rashness of his neglected youth, and is 
now a gentleman of means, honoured and respected. Surely I 
could not close my doors against a man who, heavily handi- 
capped as young Marston has been, has yet won his way to a 
respectable position.' 

' Ah, well,' exclaimed Mrs. Adrian, ' I never did believe in 
him, and I never shall ; and if I thought Ruth was going to 
fling herself away on him after all, I'd have swept him off the 
front door-step with a besom before ever he should have dark- 
ened these doors again.' 

' You are prejudiced, Mary. I like Mr. Egerton, and he 
would give Ruth a splendid establishment ; but if she still loves 



1 88 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Edward Marston, I should be the last person in the world to 
attempt to turn her against him.' 

While Mr. and Mrs. Adrian were arranging Ruth's future, 
the heroine of their conversation sat upstairs in her own little 
room reading a letter which she had taken from her pocket. 

It had come some time ago, and she had read it again and 
again, but had hesitated to answer it. 

It was dated from Dover, and was in the bold, dashing hand 
of Edward Marston : 

' Dear Ruth, 

' Do you know that to-day is the anniversary of the 
fatal day on which we parted long years ago ? I cannot resist 
the temptation of writing to you ; of asking you to think of 
the past and of all I have gone through. To-day I can offer you 
once more the heart you rejected then. You cannot deceive me. 
Your love for me has survived, as mine for you. Why should 
you condemn yourself and me to a lifelong mistake ? Bid me 
hope. Only say that I n ay strive with some chance of winning 
you, and I care not to what ordeal you put my love. Send me 
one little line, to tell me I am not, now that fortune has smiled 
upon me and a brilliant future lies before me, to lose the one 
hope which has nerved me to the struggle, which has been the 
bright star at the end of the dark, rough road I have trodden 
for years. Ruth, my future is in your hands. Say " Hope " or 
" Despair." With a fervent prayer that Heaven will guide your 
heart aright in a choice with which our future lives are bound 
up, believe me, my dear Ruth, your old, unchanged, and un- 
changeable sweetheart, 

'Edward Marston.' 

Again and again Ruth read this letter, which woke old 
memories and touched many a tender chord. She honestly be- 
lieved all that her lover said — that he had abandoned his old 
reckless life and attained the position he held by hard, honest 
work and the legitimate exercise of his talents. He had ex- 
plained to her his early visit to Heckett's, and he had offered to 
satisfy her father of his circumstances if she would only give 
him the right to broach the subject. 

Ruth had steadily resisted every effort to break down the 
barrier she had erected between the past and the present, but at 
each assault the defence became weaker. 

Her mother's words to-night, and the full revelation to her of 
the object of Gurth Egerton's constant visits, brought her face 
to face with the fact that her answer would have to be given 
some day to this new wooer. 

The very appearance of another suitor seemed to warm her 
heart towards Marston. She almost resented the idea that any 
one should dare to think of her while he was still unmarried. 



THE GOLD ROBBERY. 189 

Gnrth Egerton, in tbis instance, proved Marston's best ally- 
instead of his rival. The idea that he was in love with her so 
worked upon Ruth that that night she recognized more fully 
than ever how just were Marston's claims. A rival disputed the 
field with him, and, like a true woman, she resented it. 

That night she wrote a letter and addressed it to Edward 
Marston. 

It contained only two words. 

And those two words were — ' Hope. Rutii.' 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 

THE GOLD ROBBERY. 

Day after day, at four o'clock in the afternoon, three gentlemen 
came separately into London Bridge Station and strolled about. 

They never spoke to each other in the station ; they looked at 
the advertisements, perused the time-tables, and made themselves 
as little in the way as possible. 

One evening, about five, Mr. Turvey, the guard of the Con- 
tinental mail, came out of one of the offices and went across the 
road to a public-house. 

One of the gentlemen had preceded him. He was a dark 
gentleman with a hook nose. He found himself accidentally 
standing by Turvey at the bar. 

' Fine afternoon, sir,' said the guard. 

' Very,' answered the gentleman. 

They looked about them cautiously, to see that no one was 
listening to them or observing them, and then the guard 
whispered hurriedly : 

' We carry twenty thousand to-night.' 

The dark man nodded his head. Two glasses of ale on the 
counter were rapidly emptied, the guard went back to the station, 
and the gentleman strolled across the bridge. 

Singularly enough, the other two gentlemen had previously 
crossed the water. 

The dark gentleman passed right between them, and muttered, 
' Twenty thousand pounds to-night.' 

The ways of the three gentlemen evidently lay in opposite 
directions. They separated without remark. Their plans had 
long since been complete, and they had waited patiently until 
the stake was worth the hazard. 

Their patience had been rewarded. 

To-night the Continental mail would carry £20,000 worth of 
bullion, addressed to bankers in Paris. 

Rushing along through the night, the swift train would bear 



190 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

a fortune down to the sea — a sum for which many a man would 
gladly slave and toil all his days. 

This vast sum would travel safely, guarded by vigilant eyes, 
enclosed in massive safes, and secured by every percaution. 
Twice on the journey the safes would be weighed — at Folke- 
stone and at Boulogne— so that the slightest difference in the 
weight of the precious packages would be detected. 

Yet, if Messrs. Smith and Co., financial agents of London, 
could get their way, the gold would never reach its destination. 

The three gentlemen who separated on London Bridge were, 
for the time, members of the firm in question. 

The gentleman with the hook nose went off in the direction of 
the west ; the other two were a pleasant-looking elderly gentle- 
man, who hailed a cab and told the driver to take him to Camden 
Road, and a big, burly, grey-haired fellow, who went back to his 
lodgings in Southwark, and was greeted with some very, bad 
language by a depraved parrot. 

Messrs. Seth Preene, Brooks, and Josh Heckett had only a 
few hours to prepare for a railway journey which they proposed 
to take that evening. 



It wants a few minutes to the departure of the Continental 
mail. 

The station is a scene of bustle. Porters are rushing hither 
and thither with piles of heavy travelling trunks. Little groups 
of travellers dot the platform, affectionate farewells are being 
taken, and many an anxious eye is looking down the line where 
the lights gleam, and wondering what sort of weather it is out at 
sea. 

The stolid English traveller, who, having bought half-a-dozen 
newspapers, and taken his seat in an empty carriage, considers 
he has done an act which entitles him to the whole of the com- 
partment ; the English lady, arrayed for travel in garments 
which are calculated to amaze the foreigner ; the Frenchman, 
who raises his hat every time he passes a fellow-traveller, and 
spits on the floor of the carriage without apology ; the Belgian, 
with his hideous black travelling-cap and funereal suit ; the 
German, the Italian, and the Russian, speaking now in English 
now in their native language, all are here. 

The train is a light one, and there is plenty of room for 
travellers who wish to be exclusive. 

A few shillings to the guard on a slack night will generally 
reserve a compartment as far as Dover. 

Two gentlemen evidently think privacy worth purchasing, for 
the guard has closed the door of a first-class compartment on 
them and is slipping a bright half-crown into his pocket. 

They have handed their carpet-bags to a porter to put in the 
guard's van. 



THE GOLD ROBBERY. 191 

The bell is ringing and the train is about to start. 

There are a few people still bidding adieu to their friends. 

Just at the last moment two gentlemen, who have not taken 
their seats, step into the guard's van and crouch down behind the 
luggage. 

A sharp whistle, a volume of steam, and the train glides out 
into the night. 

Turvey, the guard, breathes freely. He has fulfilled his por- 
tion of the contract, and is entitled to his share. 

Brooks and Heckett are alone with the massive safes of bullion, 
and everything now depends upon the use they make of the 
opportunity. 

They are the workmen who are to carry out the scheme 
devised by the talented head of the firm of Smith and Co. 

Slowly at first, but increasing in speed at every moment, tho 
long train rushes like a fiery serpent through London out into 
the open country. 

Directly the train is clear of the station Brooks and Heckett 
commence operations. The rehearsal has been perfect, the per- 
formance seems likely to go off without a hitch. 

Brooks has the keys prepared with so much skill and labour, 
and the safe opens in a moment. Then Heckett with a hammer 
and chisel wrenches off the iron clasps from the first box, and, 
forcing the lid up carefully, reveals the treasure that lies 
within. 

Never did a miner's eyes gleam more brightly as he came upon 
the priceless nugget than did Heckett's as he saw the bars of 
gold at his mercy. Quick as thought the box was emptied and 
filled with shot from the carpet bags in the van. 

This shet had all been carefully weighed and prepared in 
parcels, so that it would represent the exact weight of the 
abstracted gold. 

To light some wax with a taper, reseal the box with a seal 
brought for the purpose, refasten the iron clasps and drive the 
nails in again was the work of a very short time, and when the 
train stopped at Redhill half the stupendous task was com- 
pleted. 

Here Preene, who was travelling with Marston, managed to 
alight and take a full bag of gold from Brooks, then he slipped 
it into the carriage where Marston was, and got back again in 
time to jump into the guard's van as the train started. 

Directly the train was in motion again the other boxes were 
attacked, and now Brooks, Preene, and Heckett filled their 
carpet bags with gold, and also large courier bags which they 
wore across their shoulders, and which were quite concealed by 
their heavy travelling cloaks. 

When the train stopped at Folkestone the work was done. 
The boxes had been reclosed and filled with shot of the exact 
weight of the abstracted gold, the safes were relocked, and there 



192 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

was nothing to tell that the guard's van had been the scene of a 
daring and gigantic robbery. At Folkestone the three accom- 
plices slipped out of the van and entered the nearest carriages, 
carrying their spoil with them, its great weight, however, render- 
ing it anything but an easy task. 

Here the safes were carefully taken out and handed to the 
authorities for shipment to Boulogne, and the train sped on its 
way to Dover. 

It was with intense relief that Marston put his head out of 
window as the train rattled out of Folkestone station, and saw 
the safes on the platform, zealously guai'ded by the porters, who 
little imagined that they were keeping watch over a quantity of 
shot while the gold was divided among four first-class passengers 
comfortably seated in the fast- vanishing train. 

At Dover the conspirators alighted, each carrying his own 
bag, and politely declining the offers of the porters, who were 
anxious to assist them. 

Making their way to one of the hotels in the neighbour- 
hood they succeeded in getting refreshments served in a private 
room, and here, putting their heavy bags under the table, they 
discussed the return journey. 

To avoid the suspicion which such a short stay might have 
aroused, they had provided themselves with return tickets from 
Ostend, and it was by the Ostend mail, which leaves Dover 
shortly after two, that they proposed to return to town with 
their precious burden. 

Paying their bill they got outside. There was an uneasy feel- 
ing on them all the time they were within four walls. Even 
the fact that the waiter remained out of the room some time 
before he returned with the change filled them with alarm. 

They had every hope that the weight had been so accurately 
replaced that the exchange of shot for precious metal would not 
be discovered until the safes were opened in Paris, but there was 
the chance that something might have happened at Folkestone 
before they were shipped. 

Once outside they separated, but all made for the pier. 
Marston stood and looked out over the sea, watching for the 
lights of the Ostend packet. 

The night was not very dark, and the water was comparatively 
still. As he looked out over the wide expanse of waters, dotted 
here and there with the light of a fishing vessel at anchor, his 
thoughts wandered away over the past. 

As he stood there, clutching his bag of gold, he thought of each 
succeeding step he had taken in crime, until he had come to look 
upon a robbery such as he had just been the prime mover in, in 
much the same light as a merchant looks upon a successful 
speculation on 'Change. 

Thinking of his wild life, and glancing almost unconcernedly 
at the panorama of his evil deeds which unfolded itself at the 



THE GOLD ROBBERY. 193 

Lidding of the great showman Memory, something seemed io 
come suddenly between him and the canvas. The gentle face of 
a beautiful girl rose up before him ; her eyes looked pleadingly 
into his. Suddenly it vanished, and the panorama was unrolled 
swiftly. Scene after scene he saw, where all was wickedness 
and he was the central figure. 

'B;ih!' he exclaimed, as he caught himself sighing. 'What 
the deuce is the matter with me to-night ?' 

He lit a cigar and moved away from the pier side, strolling up 
towards the head. Ho looked around for his companions. A 
feeling of loneliness had come upon him, and he wanted some 
one to speak to. 

But it had been agreed that they should not rejoin each othei' 
until the packet was in sight, so Marston buttoned his over- 
coat up round his throat, and whistled a tune to relieve bis 
feelings. 

He could not shake them off. In a few minutes he found 
himself musing again. What should he do now if this coup 
came off with complete success ? 

Once safe back in town he could snap bis fingers at detection. 
He would have ample opportunity of destroying the scent if the 
hounds of the law ever got on it. He knew that be would have 
an early intimation if there was any necessity for him to take 
precautions. His companions might peach, but it was almost 
impossible. It wouldn't pay them. They were as deep in the 
mud as he was in the mire, and he had the whip hand of them 
all. 

Still he felt uncomfortable, almost for the first time in his life. 
He kept thinking of Ruth Adrian, and that upset him. The 
old love, fanned into a flame, was burning brightly in his breast 
once more, and it seemed to unnerve him. The wealth which 
was his now would open the gates of fortune to him. He knew 
it. He knew that, with the capital soon to be at his command, 
he could make money legitimately and without risk. That was 
bis intention. He had no vulgar ambition to be a criminal. 
His desire was, having secured the foundation of a fortune, to 
live cleanly and respectably for the future. But in all the 
dreams in which he indulged, Ruth Adrian was always his wife. 

Apart from his really sincere regard for her, be had the 
gambler's idea that she would bring him luck. She was to be 
one means to an end, as the precious metal in his bag was to be 
another. 

But the more he thought of her, the more he pictured a happy 
home in which she reigned as a sort of good fairy and guardian 
angel, the more he felt a strange, undefined sense of fear in con- 
nexion with this evening's adventure. 

It was such a daring and gigantic deed that it was bound to 
cause a sensation. It would be in every man's mouth by-and- 
by. He would hear of it everywhere. The efforts made to dis- 

13 



194 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

cover the perpetrators would be superhuman. Would he not, as 
the -days went on, and he settled down into the happy life ho 
pictured for himself with Ruth, be constantly reminded of the 
perils which he ran ? Ho flung his half-smoked cigar away 
pettishly. He was annoyed with himself for worrying about 
the future at all. 

' Only let me get saf e out of this,' he thought to himself, ' and 
I'll make a fresh start. This is the last little business Smith 
and Co. will transact so far as I am concerned. Preene and 
Brooks and Heckett can take their share and do as they like ; 
Tnrvey is squared, and daren't speak for his own sake ; and the 
old Ned Marston will disappear for ever. The phoenix that will 
rise from his ashes will be a very different person indeed.' 

Standing at the pier-head, Edward Marston looked far away 
over the waves into his future life. 

His dreams were interrupted by a voice at his elbow. 

' Stand aside there !' 

Marston looked up with a start. 

The harbour officials were busy with ropes and landing-stages. 
The Ostend packet had crept up and he had not even seen it. 

In a moment it was alongside. A stream of passengers flowed 
up the gangAvays on to the pier, and trickled gently towards the 
station. 

Four gentlemen, carrying heavy bags, dropped into the crowd 
at different points and went up with it, as though they had just 
come from the boat. 

In the early morning the Belgian mail from Dover steamed 
into London and discharged her sleepy freight at the terminus. 

There the four fellow-travellers separated, each going his own 
way. 

Marston was not afraid to trust his companions with the share 
of the plunder they carried. Without him they would not bo 
able to dispose of it. In its present shape it could only be put 
on to the market by a capitalist with machinery for its distri- 
bution at his command. 

The distribution and realization of £20,000 of stolen bullion 
was to be the last official act of the eminent firm of Smith 
and Co., of which Mr. Edward Marston was the directing 

genius. 

c «- q e «t 

In the grey light of the morning Marston let himself into 
Eden Villa with his latch-key. He went upstairs quietly into 
his room and disposed of his precious burden, and then crept 
down again to the dining-room to get some brandy from the 
chiffonier, for he was tired and faint. In the room on the table 
• he found the letters which had arrived during his absence. 

He sat down in the easy-chair, opened them and read them. 

About half -past seven Cherry Ribbons, the housemaid, came 
hinging about with brooms, blaeklead-brushes, and dust-pans. 



THE ADRIANS GO OUT TO TEA. 195 

She came bustling into the dining room and then stopped 
suddenly as though she had seen a ghost. 

Her master had fallen off to sleep in the easy-chair. He was 
smiling in his sleep, and in his hand he held an open letter. 

Cherry Ribbons, who was not behind the door when the bump 
of curiosity was served out, crept gently up behind him and read 
its contents over his shoulder. 

Two words only were written on the fair white sheet, and 
they were in a lady's hand : 

' Uojpe. Rum !' 



CHAPTER XL. 

THE ADRIANS GO OUT TO TEA. 

Mr. Guetii Egerton was a pretty constant visitor at the 
Adrians', and he stood high in favour with both the master and 
the mistress of the house. 'A most agreeable gentleman,' said 
Mrs. Adrian. 'A great traveller, and full of anecdote,' said 
Mr. Adrian. Ruth said nothing in particular. She quite agreed 
that Mr. Egerton was all her parents proclaimed him, and she 
confessed that he had made himself particularly agreeable to 
her. But she was not blind, and she soon began to perceive that 
Grurth was taking great pains to please her, and that when he 
spoke to her he threw a certain tone into his voice which no 
woman, from the days of Eve, has been able to misinterpret, 
unless she did so wilfully. 

Ruth was shrewd enough to know that Mr. Gurth Egerton 
was not so domesticated as to come over to the house three or 
four times a week for the purpose of holding Mrs. Adrian's 
wool and discussing the relative merits of homoeopathy and 
allopathy with her, and she was equally certain that, much as he 
might have travelled, he was not so smitten with the savages as 
to desire constantly to discuss their habits and customs with 
her father. 

But, whatever Gurth 's motive might be, he had certainly won 
the friendship of the Adrians. He had even induced them to 
accept his hospitality, and come and take tea with him. 

He had so artfully worked up a description of a Patagonian 
dinner-service and a North American Indian war-costume, that 
he had forced Mr. Adrian to exclaim, ' Ah, I should like to see 
that !' 

' Nothing easier,' was Gurth's quick reply. ' Bring the ladies, 
and come over one afternoon to my house, and you can see the 
whole collection.' 

Mrs. Adrian at once gave John a look which informed him he 
might accept. Mr,). Adrian had not been blind any more than 

13—2 



ig5 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Ruth, and recognized in the wealthy bachelor a most eligible 
parti for her daughter. 

So it was arranged that Mr. and Mrs. Adrian and Ruth and 
Gertie should all go over to Gurth's house one evening and take 
tea. 

They came on the appointed day, and Gurth conducted them 
over the house, showing them all the curiosities he had brought 
from foreign parts. Mr. Adrian was delighted with the scalps, 
and the spears, and the various relics of barbarism. Mrs. Adrian 
tried the easy-chairs, and having found a particularly com- 
fortable one, entered into conversation with Mrs. Turvey, who 
had been sent for to keep her company while Ruth and Gertie 
and Mr. Adrian wandered over the great house. Mrs. Turvey 
was very agreeable, and allowed herself to be pumped just 
as much as she chose and no more until the exploring party 
returned. 

Then tea was served. It was a good old-fashioned tea, which 
reflected the greatest credit on Mrs. Turvey and drew forth the 
warmest encomiums of Mrs. Adrian. There were potato cakes 
and dripping cakes, and all the substantial and appetizing 
delicacies which have disappeared from the table, slain by the 
dyspeptic and unsociable monster known as 'late dinner.' 

Of course Ruth was voted to the chair, and very pretty she 
looked at the head of Gurth's table, blushing just a little as she 
lifted the bright silver teapot and asked the host if he took 
sugar and milk. 

Gurth was so lost in admiration of the unusual spectacle that 
he hardly heard the question, and it had to be repeated by Mrs. 
Adrian. Gurth stammered out 'Both, please,' and apologized 
for his inattention. 

Mrs. Adrian watched his admiring glance with satisfaction, 
but Ruth, keeping her eyes carefully fixed on her teacups, 
avoided meeting it. Mrs. Adrian built up a little romance 
directly. She was quite sure that, having once seen Ruth at the 
head of his table, the wealthy proprietor of this eligible mansion 
could not fail to desire a repetition of the scene. 

Gurth was surprised himself at the transformation which the 
gloomy room had undergone, and he was more than ever per- 
suaded that the future mistress of Mrs. Turvey's domain must 
be the young lady now presiding at his tea-table. 

Gertie was very quiet. Child as she was, she recognized the 
position of dependence in which she was placed, and though the 
Adrians treated her with the greatest kindness, she could not 
forget that she was dependent on their charity for all the happi- 
ness and comfort she now enjoyed. 

Gurth did not feel quite comfortable, once or twice, as Gertie 
moved about the place, asking now and then a childish question 
about something that attracted her attention. He had a va<mo 
feeling that it was a daring thing to have let her come ; he had a 



THE ADRIANS GO OUT TO TEA. 197 

strange, undefined sense of uneasiness, as they went from room to 
room, that the child might suddenly happen upon a discovery — 
upon some trifle which would establish the link he had been all 
these years endeavouring to hide. 

But gradually he got over the feeling, and grew more at his 
ease. He consoled himself by thinking that when he had won 
and married Ruth he would let her always have Gertie with her, 
and then the child would be really enjoying her father's property, 
just as much as though it had come to her in the first instance. 

It was an odd kind of morality ; but Gurth Egerton's ideas 
of right and wrong had always been of a peculiar sort. 

While the tea-party was being held above, Mrs. Turvey had a 
small entertainment of her own going on in the room below. 
Now that Mr. Egerton remained permanently at home another 
servant had been engaged, and she waited on the company, so 
that Mrs. Turvey only had to see that the things went up nice 
and hot and generally to superintend. 

This gave her time to attend to her own guest, who was no 
other than Mr. Jabez. The good lady knew that he had a weak- 
ness for her hot cakes, and she had taken this opportunity of 
inviting him to tea. By making an extra quantity, both Jabez 
and the ladies and gentlemen upstairs could be baked for in 
the same oven. 

Jabez required a good deal of keeping up to the mark. He 
had never plucked up courage to defy his beloved Susan to do 
her worst ; but the wooing had not advanced. He still kept up 
an outward appearance of devotion, but he required considerable 
temptation, in the shape of substantial teas, to lure him into 
Susan's little parlour after he left business. 

He was always making excuses. Now he was kept late at the 
office ; now he was obliged to go straight home because Georgina 
was ill. The trial of his lodger for forgery was for a long time 
a plea for the fact of his visits being like those of the oft-quoted 
angels — few and far between. Every now and then, however, 
in the interests of diplomacy, he felt compelled to put a good 
face on the matter and ' come up smiling ' in response to Susan's 
pressing invitations. The letters were still in her possession ; 
his poems were still held in terrorem over him. 

On the occasion of the Adrians' visit he had consented to take 
tea in Mrs. Turvey's little parlour and try her famous hot 
cakes. 

Love had not injured his appetite, and he was far" more 
assiduous in his attention to the cakes than he was in his atten- 
tions to the lady whose light hand had turned them out so suc- 
cessfully. 

'Jabez,' said Mrs. Turvey, 'I don't think it will be lonj 
before I leave here.' 

'Leave here — why ?' exclaimed Jabez, 



198 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Well, there's a young lady upstairs pouring out the master's 
tea.' 

' So you told me before,' said Jabez, taking a bite. 

' Where shall I go when I leave here, Jabez ?' 

Jabez swallowed a mouthful hurriedly. 

' I'm sure I don't know, Susan.' 

' Then you ought to, that's all I've got to say. How much 
longer do you think I'm going to stand your indifference ? I tell 
you what it is, Jabez, I shall give you till I get notice to leave 
here, and I shan't give you a moment longer.' 

Jabez, whose eyes had been cast down, looked up hurriedly. 

' That's a bargain !' he said. ' I'll agree to it. Let's draw it 
up in writing. I agree to marry you directly you get notice to 
leave.' 

Mrs. Turvey tossed her head. 

' Dror it up in writing ? Oh dear no, Mr. Jabez. It's drored 
up in quite enough writing already for me. I suppose you fancy 
as there's nothing in it upstairs. Perhaps you've been a-pryin' 
into the master's private affairs, and know something. Dror it 
up, indeed ! Not with them there poems o' yours in my workbox 
upstairs. You must think me a cake !' 

Whether Mr. Jabez did think his Susan a cake, I can't say, but 
he certainly seized one and munched it viciously. 

The little tiff, however, soon blew over. Jabez had not studied 
the art of dissembling in vain. So long as he could drive off the 
evil day until the letters, which were the only legal proofs of 
' promise,' came into his possession, or until something turned up 
to give him a loophole of escape, he was satisfied. 

He made it up, shone on Mrs. Turvey as brightly as he could, 
and presently, having finished the cakes and emptied the teapot, 
took his departure. 

While this scene was transacting itself below, the little tea- 
party upstairs was progressing under far more favourable circum- 
stances. 

Gurth, absorbed in his desire to make himself agreeable to the 
Adrians, succeeded in making them spend a really pleasant even- 
ing. Mr. Adrian was so delighted with his conversation, and 
Mrs. Adrian felt so comfortable in his easy-chair, that both were 
loth to leave, and had to be reminded twice by Ruth of the late- 
ness of the hour before they prepared to go. 

A few days after the tea-party at Egerton's house, Mr. John 
Adrian sat alone in his dining-room. 

The latest book of travels lay on the table before him, but he 
took no notice of it. He was evidently lost in thought. 

A few minutes before a visitor had departed — a visitor who 
had requested a private interview, and, having obtained it, had 
told Mr, Adrian something which had completely put the Pata- 



THE ADRIANS GO OUT TO TEA. 199 

gonians' noses out of joint and driven the Central Africans from 
the field. 

The visitor was no other than Mr. Gurth Egerton, who, in a 
few plain words, had requested Mr. Adrian's permission to pay 
his addresses to his daughter. 

Mr. Adrian had listened to his visitor politely, and had gone 
so far as to confess that such a match would be by no means dis- 
agreeable to himself, but with regard to his daughter's feelings 
he was not in a position to speak. 

' My dear sir,' answered Gurth gaily, ' if I have your consent, 
that is all I ask at present. I by no means wish you to advocate 
my cause with the young lady, or to say anything to her about 
this interview. I merely wish to know, before I urge my suit 
with her, that I have your free consent to do so. I don't want 
to come here sailing under false colours.' 

Mr. Adrian was charmed with his visitor's frankness, and let 
him go away assured that, though he would in no way attempt 
to influence Ruth in her choice of a husband, he should only be 
too glad if it fell upon so prosperous and agreeable a gentleman 
as Gurth Egerton. 

For some little time after Gurth's departure, Mr. Adrian sat 
wrapt in thought. It would be a splendid match for Ruth, and 
he felt it was time she was settled in life. Mrs. Adrian, he 
knew, would offer no opposition — in fact, over and over again 
she had urged him to do all in his power to foster such a match. 
There was nothing in the way of its accomplishment but Ruth 
herself. 

' I wonder,' said Mr. Adrian, ' if she has quite got over that old 
business with Ned Marston ! Sometimes I fancy there is a soft 
spot in her heart for him still.' 

Could Mr. Adrian have seen Ruth, as she sat up in her own 
room that afternoon, he would have had grave doubts as to the 
success of Gurth Egerton's wooing. 

Ruth was amusing herself for a moment or two at her writing- 
desk, and scribbling, as young ladies will some-times when their 
thoughts are wandering, on a piece of blotting-paper. 

She was writing her name over and over again : 

' Ruth Adrian,' 
''Ruth Adrian.' 

She scribbled it half-a-dozen times, and then her pen, perhaps 
obedient to her thought, paused at the ' Ruth ' and wrote a fresh 
name after it. 

Ruth blushed a vivid scarlet when she saw what she had done. 
There, on the blotting-paper in bold relief^ she had written, in 
place of her usual signature : 

'Ruth Marston,' 



-oo ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 



CHAPTER XLI. 

AN AFTERNOON CALL. 

Gl'ETU Egerton was delighted at the cordial reception he had 
received at the hands of Mr. Adrian. He had, at any rate, in 
that interview ascertained that, so far as Ruth's parents were 
concerned, nothing was known of Marston's pretensions. 

He was more than ever convinced that it was only bragga- 
docio on that gentleman's part, and that he had nothing to fear 
from his old companion. The more he thought of it, the more 
absurd it seemed to him that he should ever have attached 
any importance to Marston's assertion. Ruth certainly was 
polite to him, and when he had seen them meet they met as 
old friends. He quite understood that. Years ago, before 
Marston went wrong, he had been acquainted with the family, 
and Ruth and he had been sweethearts as boy and girl. But 
things were very different now. Marston, in spite of his assump- 
tion of independence, was only an adventurer. He felt con- 
vinced that his respectability was a whited sepulchre, and that 
there was something very rotten underneath it. 

But the undoubted fact remained that Marston was now on 
visiting terms with the Adrians, and that Ruth was not particu- 
larly cold to him. 

It would be safer, at any rate, to clinch the matter at once, 
and bowl Mr. Edward Marston out before he had a chance of 
scoring. 

Gurth followed up his declaration to Mr. Adrian at once. He 
managed to find himself pretty constantly in Ruth's society, 
and he flattered himself that he was on the straight road to 
conquest. 

But he was determined not to be too precipitate, and by over- 
haste court an answer which might render his position a difficult 
one. 

One day when he called he was annoyed to find Marston at the 
house, but he shook hands with him cordially, and barely allowed 
his annoyance to be perceptible. 

It was Marston's first visit to the Adrians for some time. He 
had been engaged on ' important business,' but he had not allowed 
Ruth's little note to remain unanswered. 

He had written, telling her that he had been successful in a 
great undertaking, and that now he was in a position to offer her 
a home and devote himself solely to making her happy. 

He had met Ruth, too, and the old romance of their lives had 
been reopened at a second volume, 

It is in the third volume that everybody is generally made 



AN AFTERNOON CALL. 201 

happy, and it was to the third volume which Marston was now 
anxious to turn. 

lie had conquered the fortress once more. It had been but 
Aveakly defended. One by one, the barriers had gone down before 
the weapons which Marston brought to bear upon it. The 
old love had never died out — it had but languished awhile ; 
and now that Ruth believed Marston to be leading a new life, 
and to be the brave, honest-hearted, good fellow she once 
prayed that he might become, she was thankful he had never 
met that good woman she had once prayed might be flung in 
his path. 

Who can explain the workings of a woman's heart ? Who 
can dissect it, and show the complex machinery which governs its 
marvellous performances ? To attempt such a task would be to 
court ignominious failure. I only know that Ruth Adrian, pure, 
good, and noble as she was, loved Edward Marston, and trusted 
him as blindly and devotedly as ever, in spite of the rude shock 
her faith had once received, in spite of the many doubts with 
which her heart had been beset since his reappearance on the 
horizon that bounded her little world. Her love was strengthened 
and confirmed by the very fact that once he had led an evil life, 
that once she had been compelled to snap the link, and bid him 
go his way and leave her to go hers. 

She found herself now hungering for a word from him, waiting 
about where he was to pass, meeting him under all the romantic 
circumstances of a first courtship. At twenty-eight her heart 
beat as quickly when he came as it had done when she was 
eighteen. It seemed to her that their separation and the long 
ordeal through which they had both passed had but purified and 
intensified their love. 

Even the element of secrecy which, as much for her own sake 
as for his, Marston imported into the romance was not without 
its charm. Ruth knew now that both her mother and father 
would be opposed to her match. She saw that Gurth Egerton 
was in high favour, and, so far as they were concerned, would be 
a formidable rival to her poor Ned. But she was her own mis- 
tress now, and could decide for herself. Gurth Egerton was a 
very pleasant gentleman, but he came too late. She had no heart 
left to give. Marston had won it long ago, and now he had the 
right to claim it. 

When Marston called, he did so by Ruth's advice. She didn't 
want Gurth Egerton to have the field entirely to himself. She 
was sure Marston was quite as agreeable as he was. 

Of course she had told Marston about Gurth — about the tea- 
party and his constant visits. Of the interview with her father 
she herself knew nothing. Marston was seriously alarmed. He 
remembered his interview with Gurth, and he felt that it would 
not do to despise such a foe too much. 

Aeiing on Ruth's hint he determined to ingratiate himself 



202 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

with the Adrians as much as he could, and, if possible, cut 
Gurth out on his own ground. 

He knew that so far as Ruth was concerned hevhad nothing to 
fear, but for her sake he was anxious that she should marry him 
with the full and free approbation of her parents. 

He felt that she would never really be happy under any other 
circumstances, and, strange as it may seem, Ruth's happiness 
was with him now a primary consideration. He had gradually 
come to love his old sweetheart again with an affection as pure 
and disinterested as that she felt for him. 

She seemed to him, like an angel of light, to banish the dark- 
ness of the past. He never really knew how vile and wicked he 
had been till he looked into Ruth's sweet eyes, and thought that 
one day she would bear his name. 

He shuddered sometimes now as he thought of what an awful 
past was linked with that name. Now that Ruth had assured 
him of her love, now that the bright pages were open once more 
in his book of life, he recognized, for the first time, the depth to 
which he had fallen. There was much in the past about which 
he hesitated to think ; there were secrets buried away in the 
bygone years of poverty and scheming which once he could 
remember with a smile, but which now made him tremble to 
think that some day they might be dragged into the glaring light 
of day. 

' What a different man I might have been had such a woman's 
love been mine years ago !' he thought ; but never for a moment 
did he blame Ruth for the part she had played when his future 
hung in the balance. 

He was innocence itself then in comparison with what he had 
been when he plunged, reckless and despairing, into the black 
abyss of crime. 

Even the deed which had given him fortune, the well-planned 
and cleverly executed robbery which had astonished the world 
and left him independent of crime for the future, terrified him 
now. 

Without it he would still have been an adventurer — he dared 
not have offered Ruth his hand. It was this vilely won wealth 
which he believed would give him all the happiness he was ever 
to know in the future ; it was this which was to enable him to 
break with all his old associates and live cleanly ; it was this 
which was to be the foundation of a genuine business career in 
which he might win wealth and honour legitimately ; and yet 
he never parted with Ruth after one of those frequent inter- 
views without wishing he had gone penniless to the grave rather 
than have launched out into such a crime with her image in his 
heart, and her sweet self the beacon that shone at the end of the 
long dark path and lured him on. 

It seemed a treachery to her now to have linked her with such 
villany. 



AN AFTERNOON CALL. 203 

The iiansiiion slate of Mr. Edward Marston's conscience was 
a condition of things which would form a splendid study for the 
moralist and the philosopher. The novelist must not pause by 
the way to dilate upon it, tempting though the opportunity 
may be. He has already left the Adrians and their visitors 
much longer than courtesy and the rules of fiction allow. 

Marston and Egerton left together. The conversation had 
been confined to platitudes. Mr. Adrian was ill at ease, for he 
feared danger from the Marston quarter now more than ever. 
When he did bring his eyes from Patagonia to things nearer 
home they generally saw pretty clearly. Mrs. Adrian was so 
rude to Marston that Ruth was really distressed. The good 
lady begged that he would not kick the chair legs, as they had 
just been rcpolished ; she requested him kindly to move 
his chair a little way from the wall, as it was rubbing the 
paper ; and when he drew up to the table at last, in a tone of 
icy politeness she called his attention to the fact that he was 
drumming with his fingers on the said piece of furniture, a 
practice which, in her delicate state of health, always gave her 
the headache. 

Marston laughed good-humouredly, but the laugh was forced. 
Gurth was ill at ease, for he saw that a storm was brewing, and 
when Marston rose to leave he went with him. 

He knew that, sooner or later, he and Marston would have to 
have a few words, and he felt that it might as well be now. 

He was hardly prepared, however, for the coolness which his 
rival displayed. 

' Which way are you -going, Gurth ?' said Marston, as they 
closed the Adrians' gate. 

' Home,' answered Gurth. ' Come with me and have a cigar.' 

' That's just what will suit me best. I want to talk with you 
about one or two things.' 

The two men exchanged very few words on their way to 
Gurth ''s house. Both were busy with their thoughts. Both 
were bracing themselves up for the conflict to come. 

As they passed through one of the main thoroughfares the 
afternoon papers were being sold, and there was a crowd round 
the placards. 

Gurth went up and peered over to read the contents bill that 
was exciting so much attention. 

' What is it ?' asked Marston. ' A murder or a robbery ?' 

' It will turn out both, I dare say,' said Egerton. ' The Great 
Blankshire Bank has stopped payment.' 

' Oh !' said Marston ; ' I don't know much about commercial 
matters. Is there anything special about the circumstances ?' 

' No ! only it is unlimited, and the shareholders will be 
btggars. The liabilities are immense.' 

' Poor devils !' exclaimed Marston. 'I'm sorry for 'em; but, 
as I'm not a shareholder, it doesn't interest me.' 



204 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Edward Marston spoke as he believed. He little knew that 
the failure of the Great Blankshire Bank was to interest him 
very much indeed. 



CHAPTER XLII. 

A DUEL OF WORDS. 

Gurth Egerton and Edward Marston sat opposite each other 
in the same room where, a few days previously, Gurth had enter- 
tained the Adrians. 

Euth had told Marston of the visit, and as he glanced round 
the cosily furnished apartment he fancied he could see her at 
the head of the table, and Gurth smiling complacently to him- 
self at the victory he imagined he was gaining over an absent 
rival. 

The thought irritated him, and when Egerton handed him 
his cigar-case, he pushed it away from him with a contemptuous 
gesture. 

' A truce to this tomfoolery, Egerton !' he exclaimed, jump- 
ing up from his chair and striding across the room in his excite- 
ment. ' You can guess what I've come here to talk about.' 

' Well, suppose I can '?' answered Gurth, quietly helping him- 
self from the rejected case. 

' You will spare me the trouble of any introductory remarks. 
I may as well be plain, Gurth. In the old days we didn't 
choose our phrases, and we needn't now. You are paying a 
good deal too much attention to Euth Adrian, and I strongly 
object to it.' 

'I have no doubt you do,' answered Gm*th ; 'but the young 
lady may not.' 

' Tush, man ! we are not rehearsing a comedy. Drop your 
repartee. Ruth does object to your visits very much.' 

' I am sorry to hear it ; but I visit her parents' house at her 
parents' invitation.' 

' Good. Then you'll remain away in future at my invita- 
tion.' 

' What the deuce do you mean, Mr, Marston ?' 

' What I say. If it isn't clear to you, I'll put it plainer. I 
request you to keep away from the Adrians' while Ruth remains 
with them.' 

' Hoity-toity ! You request me ?' 

' Yes ; or rather I command you. Come, Mr. Gurth Egerton, 
you are not the only beggar who can sit a horse. I can be up 
in the stirrups too.' 

Gurth Egerton looked at Marston for a moment, but the face 
of the latter betrayed nothing. 



A DUEL OF WORDS. 205 

'Look here, Ned Marston,' he said, after a pause; 'I don't 
want to quarrel with yon, but you are adopting a tone which 
doesn't suit you at all. It's out of place, my dear fellow. Who 
are you !' 

' You know well enough.' 

'Perhaps I do. As you evidently forget yourself, let me 
remind you. Some time ago a ragged, half-starved fellow 
turned up in London, after a long absence from the scenes of 
his youth, and came cadging to a friend of mine. My friend, 
acting on my behalf, gave him live hundred pounds for old 
acquaintance sake.' 

Marston interrupted. 

' So Birnie let you in for that five hundred, did he ?' he ex- 
claimed with a laugh. ' What a chap he is !' 

' I paid the five hundred you drew of Birnie. Certainly I 
did !' continued Gurth. ' I was very glad to do it for a poor 
devil out of luck whom I had known in former times. I could 
afford it, you know ' 

' Of course you could, having Ralph's money to spend.' 

1 Ralph's money was left to me legally, Mr. Marston, and no 
one can dispute my right to it ! You got that five hundred, and 
you seem to have made a good use of it. You have managed to 
worm your way into respectable society, established a certain 
amount of credit, and now you have the confounded impudence 
to interfere in my private affairs — to aspire to the hand of a 
lady I intend to make my wife. Take my advice, Mr. Marston ; 
be satisfied with your present success, and leave well alone.' 

'If I don't?' 

'If you don't I shall take care that your true character is 
known. I have no doubt if the police are once put on the right 
track they could furnish me with some interesting details of 
your past career.' 

Marston laughed. 

'What a rum chap you are, Egerton !' he said. 'Do you 
think if I had asything to fear I should have acted in the way I 
have ? You are on the wrong line this time, old fellow.' 

' You interfere between Ruth Adrian and me, and it will be 
bad for you !' exclaimed Gurth, angrily. 

Marston, who had been standing by the window, came across 
the room to the mantel-shelf, and stood with his back to the 
fireplace. 

' Listen to me, Gurth Egerton,' he said. ' I told you once 
before that it was no use your crossing my path in this quarter, 
and you despised my warning. It is necessary now that I 
should let you know the consequences to you if you persist in 
your folly.' 

' You threaten ?' 

' Certainly. Haven't you threatened me ? But I shall 
not be so foolish as you. You have shown your hand to no 



2o6 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

purpose. I fancy when you see my cards you will fling the game 
up.' 

Marston's manner was cold, and his voice stern. He spoke 
with such an air of conscious power that Gurth s anxiety be- 
trayed itself in the expression of his face. 

Marston noticed the effect, and hastened to follow it up. 

' I love Euth Adrian honestly and devotedly !' he continued. 
' With her for my wife, I am about to lead a new life — a life 
which you will not be able to understand, perhaps. If you, by 
word or deed, attempt to thwart my purpose, woe betide you, 
Gurth Egerton. You had better try to rob a lion of its whelp 
than step between me and the fulfilment of my dream.' 

Gurth roused himself with an effort. ' Talk, my dear fellow !' 
he exclaimed, banteringly. ' Mere talk ! What could you — an 
adventurer, a runaway from America, a penniless schemer — say 
or do that would injure a man of my wealth and position ? 
Come, what do you want ? A thousand — two thousand ? Name 
your figure, take a cheque, and disappear. You are good at dis- 
appearing, you know.' 

Marston had controlled himself with difficulty for some time, 
but when, in stinging tones of contempt, Gurth offered him 
money — offered to buy Ruth of him, as it were — his calmness 
forsook him. With a flushed face and flashing eyes he sprang 
forward and seized Gurth by the shoulders. 

' You cur !' he exclaimed, passionately. ' Do you think to 
buy me with your dirty money? — your money! — bah, with 
the money that you have got by fraud — for all I know, by 
murder !' 

It was a shot at random, but it went home. 

Gurth, white as a ghost, shook himself free from Marston's 
clutch. 

' What do you mean ?' he exclaimed. ' How dare you say 
such things ?' 

' Look at your white face in the glass,' cried Marston, with an 
exulting cry. ' I've unmasked you at last, then. Ah, my fine 
fellow, I fancy I know the weak spot now. You'll sweep me 
out of your path, will you ? We'll see. Now, listen to this, 
Mr. Gurth Egerton. The first time you cross the Adrians' 
threshold you seal your own fate. I'll risk what will happen, 
and I'll risk proving my words, but I'll publicly denounce you as 
the murderer of Ralph Egerton !' 

' You fool !' gasped Egerton, in a husky voice. ' You know it 
isn't true. You know he w r as killed in a drunken row. You 
were there. Besides, his death Avas duly certified ' 

' By Birnie !' answered Marston. ' A pretty certificate !' 

' Good enough, at any rate, to silence such an accusation as 
you make,' answered Gurth, more calmly. 

He was beginning to recover his composure. He was shrewd 
enough to see that there was nothing in Marston's threat after 



A 'DUEL OF WORDS. 207 

all, and that he dare hardly use such a weapon lest he should 
injuro himself. 

A moment's reflection showed Marston that the threat was an 
empty one. He would try another arrow in the dark. 

' You are prepared to meet that accusation, are you ?' he said, 
speaking slowly and deliberately, and watching the effect of his 
words. ' Very well, then, to make sure I'll back it with another. 
Let me find you at Adrians' — let me hear that you have shown 
you false face there again, or spoken to Ruth one single word 
wherever you may chance to meet her — and I'll sweep the 
fortune you have done so much to gain from your clutch at a 
blow.' 

This time Gurth laughed bravely. He began to have an idea 
that Marston was merely shooting at random in the hope of 
hitting once. 

' What will you do ?' he asked. ' Charge me with attempted 
regicide, or with plotting the destruction of the British 
Museum ?' 

' I shall charge you with nothing,' answered Marston, quietly. 
'I shall set up another claimant to the property.' 

Without stopping to explain— without waiting to watch the 
effect on Gurth — Marston turned on his heel, and went out of 
the door. 

He had played a card at hazard. He had no real idea that he 
could do what he said, but he knew that Gurth was concealing 
something — that there was something in the background which. 
Gurth feared being known. 

He had no real idea that Ralph had left any heir but Gurth, 
but he fancied there was a screw loose — that if all had been fair, 
square, and above-board, Gurth would not be so mysterious in 
his movements, nor so much in the power of Birnie as he evi- 
dently was. He had always had his suspicions of foul play with 
regard to Gurth and Ralph, and had a vague idea that some 
scheme had been concocted which had given Gurth the dead 
man's property. The will might be a forgery, or a codicil 
might have been suppressed. The idea was a vague one merely, 
and it was suggested more by Gurth's manner than by anything 
else. 

He had shot his arrow in the dark, but it had hit the mark. 

As the door closed behind Marston, Gurth sprang up and 
shook his fist at the place where his rival had been. 

' I'll be even with you yet, Ned Marston !' he exclaimed. 
' You know more than you ought to. You've been prying and 
ferreting about, and you've found out something, and now you 
think you've got me in your power. Wait a while, my fine 
fellow, and I'll turn the tables on you, and shut your mouth 
tight enough, or my name's not Gurth Egerton !' 

What did Marston mean ? Egerton wondered. A hundred 
things suggested themselves. Had he learned the secret of 



2o3 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Gertie Heckett's parentage? He could not say. He might 
even have found out where the marriage had taken place. 
Gurth had no doubt in his own mind there had been a marriage. 
There was just the chance that Ralph's boast was that of a 
drunkard, but it was a very faint one. Still it was singular the 
certificate had never turned up. It wasn't among Ralph's papers 
— of that he was sure. It couldn't have been among the dead 
girl's, or old Heckett would have been down on the property at 
once. 

It was all a mystery ; but, do what he would, he could not 
separate Marston's threat from Gertie Heckett. He felt sure 
that Marston knew something about her birth, and that she was 
the claimant he referred to. 

Why had he never said anything before ? 

Pacing the room, and thinking, he found himself presently at 
the window. It was an old habit of his to pause when he was 
deep in thought, and look out into the street at nothing. 

As he looked out who should pass by on the other side but 
Ruth Adrian and Gertie. 

Close behind them came Lion, trotting along with his tail in 
the air, and his nose in close contact with the pavement. 

Something in the appearance of Gertie and the dog struck 
Egerton, and suddenly he remembered he had seen them pass 
his house once before, when he had no idea how closely they 
were connected with his career. 

The last time he saw them go by was when he was planning 
out his brilliant future. 

It was more than a coincidence that on the very day when 
the first part of his scheme had been frustrated by a despised 
rival, Gertie Heckett and her dog should once more come 
between him and the shadow-land that he was gazing into. 

Marston's threat had done its work. Mr. Gurth Egerton 
decided that for the present he would not intrude on the 
domestic circle of the Adrians. The next day his house was 
once more masterless. 

But this time he was bound on no purposeless journey. lie 
had a goal in view — a goal to reach which men and women have 
ere now sacrificed the best years of their life— a goal whoso 
attainment is to some natures a glorious reward for superhuman 
effort and unexampled endurance. 

That goal was revenge ! Mr. Gurth Egerton had gone to 
America. 



THE GREAT BLANK SHIRE BANK. 209 

CHAPTER XLIII. 

TJIE GREAT BLANKSHIRE BANK. 

Tjie news of the failure of the Great Blankshire Bank spread 
rapidly, and the terrible line on the contents bill of the evening 
papers had a dread significance for hundreds. To many a home 
it was the herald of ruin and despair. 

The Great Blankshire Bank had been established for years, 
and was looked upon as a model of stability and sound finance. 

It was one of those old-fashioned banks, in which the liability 
is unlimited, but its shares were reckoned as good as Bank of 
England notes. People would as soon have expected to hear of 
Rothschild pawning his watch to get a dinner as that the Great 
Blankshire Bank had come to grief. 

The liabilities were enormous ; but the first thought was for 
the unhappy shareholders. The depositors were safe. They 
would be paid to the uttermost farthing. The loss would strip 
the shareholders to the skin, and their garments would be 
divided among the creditors. 

No wonder the unhappy people on whom the blow fell reeled 
beneath the force of it. It was so sudden, so crushing, that it 
wrung something like a cry of agony from the victims. 

Men, who in the morning were prosperous citizens, sought 
their couches that night with bankruptcy staring them in the 
face. 

Well-to-do tradesmen, whose business gave them no uneasi- 
ness, and who believed themselves safe from all commercial 
disasters, found themselves suddenly called upon to part with 
the whole of their capital and trade as best they could on an 
empty exchequer. 

On all classes of the community the blow fell heavily, but 
most cruelly, perhaps, on men who had, after a long and laborious 
career, retired with the fruits of their honest industry, hoping 
to spend the remainder of their days in ease and comfort. 

It was after tea on the fatal evening, and Mr. Adrian was 
deep in his favourite volumes, his wife and daughter and little 
Gertie sitting in their accustomed places. 

A man passed along the quiet street shouting something. 

All they heard at first was : 

' Speshul 'dition.' 

' What are they crying the papers for to-night, I wonder ?' 
paid Mrs. Adrian, lifting her head from her work and listening. 

'Some catchpenny, I suppose,' answered her husband. 'A 
fearful murder in America, I expect, or a great earthquake in 
Van Diemen's Land. Listen !' 

The man was coming nearer and nearer. Presently he seemed 

14 



210 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

to be opposite their door. They could almost hear the -words 
shouted in the harsh broken voice of the London street hawkor : 

' Speshul 'dition ! Pank city ! Failer Great Blankskur 
Bank !' 

John Adrian doubted his ears. He had not caught the slurred 
words aright. 

He started up from his chair, bis face pale and his limbs 
trembling, and almost ran to the front door. 

The man was passing. He hailed him and took a paper. He 
handed him the first coin in his pocket. It was a shilling. In 
his excitement he clutched the paper and closed the door, never 
waiting for his change. 

With trembling hands he unfolded the paper, and scanned the 
contents in the flickering light of the hall lamp. 

There was no need to look far. 

There it was in huge letters — letters of flame that seared his 
heart : 



'TERRIBLE COMMERCIAL DISASTER. 

FAILURE OF THE GREAT BLANKSHIRE BANK. 

ENORMOUS LIABILITIES.' 



John Adrian read the fatal words. The heading was enough. 
He had no need to read the details that followed. 

The letters swam before his eyes ; a faint, sick feeling seized 
him, and with a groan he reeled forward. 

' Father !' 

Ruth had noticed her father's strange look as he left the 
sitting-room, and had followed him. 

She ran forward and caught him in her arms, or he would 
have fallen. 

' Father, you are ill !' she cried. ' "What is it ? Let me send 
for a doctor !' 

John Adrian had recovered the first shock, and had steadied 
himself. 

' A doctor's no good. My poor Ruth !' he groaned. He held 
the paper towards his daughter, and she knew the worst. 

Her father was a shareholder in the ruined bank ! 

' It's ruin, child !' he groaned. ' Ruin ! The saving of a life- 
time swept away ! We are beggars !' 

'Oh, father, don't despair !' whispered Ruth, trembling. ' It 
may not be so bad as you think.' 

' It's ruin, I tell you !' he cried, almost savagely. ' We shall 
be houseless beggars ! Oh, my God ! my God !' 

' Poor mother !' sighed Ruth. ' It will break her heart !' 

John Adrian started. 



THE GREAT 13 LANK SHIRE BANK. 211 

' Hash !' he said, seizing Ruth's arm. ' Keep it from her as 
long as we can.' 

The room door was closed. 

While they spoke it opened and Mrs. Adrian came out. 

' What ever are you two doing in the hall ?' she asked, snap- 
pishly. ' What's in the paper, after all ?' 

' Didn't you hear what the man said, mother ?' asked Ruth, 
eagerly. 

' No ; I 6an't hear anything for my cold. What was it ? — a 
murder?' 

' Yes, my dear,' answered John Adrian, keeping his white face 
turned away. ' A murder — an awful murder !' 

1 Where ?' 

' In Patagonia.' 

John Adrian tried to give a little laugh, but it was a ghastly 
failure, and ended in a groan. 

' I thought it was a catchpenny. And the idea of your going 
rushing out catching your death to buy that rubbish ! Murder 
in Patagonia, indeed ! The Patagonians'll be the death of you 
before you're done.' 

Mrs. Adrian went back to her chair. Mr. Adrian made some 
excuse and went upstairs to his room, bidding Ruth go in and 
talk to her mother. 

When he came down he was still pale, and his face had a look 
of agony upon it which he could not well banish. But he com- 
plained of sudden toothache, and Mrs. Adrian went to sleep that 
night in happy ignorance of the awful misfortune which had 
fallen upon them. 

Ere she went to rest Ruth wrote a note to Marston, and sent 
the servant with it to the post. 

' Let me see you at once. A great trouble has come upon us.' 

That was all she wrote. Her heart was too full, her mini 
too disturbed, to write down in black and white the ghastly 
truth that her father was ruined, and that they were beggared 
by the failure of the Great Blankshire Bank. 



CHAPTER XLIV. 

A journey's end. 

In the back parlour of a little house at Camberwell a young 
woman lies, wan and white-faced, upon an antiquated and un- 
comfortable sofa of the lodging-house pattern. In a chair by 
the side of her, holding her hand in a professional manner, sits 
a pale, smooth-faced gentleman, dressed in black. Standing- 
near, his eyes fixed eagerly upon the pale gentleman's face, is an 

14—2 



212 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

old man, whose garb and manner speak eloquently of the 
country. 

The invalid is Bess, the old man is her father, and the pro- 
fessional gentleman is Mr. Goff, the surgeon, who, having a large 
family and a small practice, and living in a neighbourhood where 
half-crown fees are commoner than guinea ones, is fain to unite 
the business of a chemist with the profession of a surgeon. But 
though Mr. Goff is not above retailing tooth-brushes, acid drops, 
scented soap, and lemonade, as well as leeches, rhubarb, mag- 
nesia, and drugs of all descriptions, he has the reputation of 
being a very clever man, and of having effected some marvellous 
cures ; and when Marks, terrified at his daughter's appearance, 
asked Mrs. Ketley, the landlady, if she knew of a good medical 
man, Mrs. Ketley immediately suggested Mr. Goff, round the 
corner. 

Mr. Goff was plain-spoken and curt. The half-guinea-a-minute 
small talk and the fashionable-physician smirk were not part 
and parcel of his business. ' Yisit, medicine included, two-and- 
six,' left but small margin for those little courtesies which are 
so necessary to the success of a West-End doctor. 

Mr. Goff would feel a pulse, look at a tongue, prescribe, and 
be down the front door-steps before the smiling creature, all 
shirt-front and white teeth, who basks in the favour of fashion- 
able indisposition, would have arranged his hat and cane in the 
hall, and put on his sympathetic smirk preparatory to being 
shown into the presence of his patient. 

But Mr. Goff, in spite of his tremendous hurry, his bluff 
speech, his rough hair, and his ill-fitting black clothes, loved his 
work and took real interest in his patients. He was par- 
ticularly interested in the white-faced trembling girl, by 
whose side he sat while her old father watched his face so 
eagerly. 

' Shock to system, eh ? Something upset her ?' 

This with an inquiring glance at Marks. 

' Yes, sir,' answered the old man ; ' she's seen a sight o' trouble 
lately.' 

' Where's her husband ?' 

A flush of shame spread itself over the old gamekeeper's 
withered old face. 

'Ah, I see — family trouble. Guessed so. Been fretting.' 

He bent down kindly over Bess. 

' Come, you must cheer up, Mrs. Smith,' he said. ' Get to the 
window— look out — read — work — do something.' 

He rose to go. 

Marks went with him to the door. 

' Can't you give her anything, sir ?' he said. ' She's changing 
dreadful. She's breaking her heart.' 

1 My good sir,' answered the doctor, ' I don't keep any plaister 
that can heal that. She doesn't want medicine. She wants 



A JO URNE V'S END. 1 13 

change and fresh air. Get her away from London — seaside — 
bracin5j.i1 - . Talk to her — keep her from thinking.' 

That was Mr. Goff's advice on the first day, but, just to please 
old Marks and to make a show for his fee, he sent a tonic for 
Bess to take. 

He called again and again, and each time he was more desirous 
that Bess should be got away. 

He told her father plainly what was the matter. Her great 
trouble, whatever it was, had completely shattered her strength, 
and there was a danger that if she brooded on it much more her 
mind might suffer. 

There was a look in her eyes that frightened him. 

One day Marks told the doctor their history. It was neces- 
sary he should know it, for Bess's condition was becoming 
alarming. 

The terrible sentence pronounced on her husband, the thought 
of his awful fate, and the long, weary years of separation, hail 
crushed her gentle, loving heart. It seemed as though the thread 
of her life had been suddenly snapped. She was like the sweet 
meadowland flower, which, crushed in its beauty by the heel of 
some passing hind, never lifts its head to the sun again, but slowly 
withers and dies. 

It was after one of his short visits that Mr. Goff put the case 
plainly to Marks. 

' Look here, my good fellow,' he said ; ' I'm not coming here to 
rob you any more. Take her away from London at once. Get 
to the sea, and let her have the air as much as you can. If you 
can't afford it, or won't do it, the end isn't far off.' 

' You don't think she will die ?' asked Marks, in an agonized 
tone, clutching the doctor's arm. 

' If she's got a good constitution she will not die. The mind 
will go before the body. It's seaside or lunatic asylum — which 
you like.' 

The doctor was quite right. A hundred little things bore out 
his opinion. Bess would sit for hours staring into vacancy and 
talking to herself. She did not cry. She sat with tearless, lack- 
lustre eyes, repeating to herself the sad story of her later life. 
There was no emotion, no passionate outbreak, only the mono- 
tonous misery. Marks made np his mind to obey the doctor's 
instructions at once. 

Bess offered no opposition. She seemed to have lost all power 
of will, all care or thought for herself. She expressed no sur- 
prise when her father told her they were going on a journey. 
She was still feeble and weak, but she could get about , and 
she obeyed him as the tired child obeys its nurse — mechanically. 

Somehow or other, his daughter's illness seemed to have 
obliterated all other thoughts from the old man's mind. In that 
great trouble he lost sight of the disgrace of the young squire 
and the sufferings of the old one. He seldom thought of either. 



214 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

It seemed to him that something very dreadful had happened a 
long time ago, but that was all over now, and he had nothing to 
do with it. 

He had but one thing left to him now — his daughter. He 
knew that the prison-gates had closed upon her husband for years 
— that he was walled up in a living tomb, and might as well be 
dead. He knew that the old master he had served so faithfully, 
and whose service he had quitted stealthily and like a thief in 
the night, was lying paralyzed in his lonely mansion, body and 
mind alike wrecked by the blow which, as he thought, his own 
son had dealt him. 

He had read in the papers the whole terrible history, for they 
had not been loth to comment on it, and his own name had been 
seized upon by the sensation-mongers and artfully interwoven 
with a narrative more fiction than fact. 

To shun publicity and avoid inquiry, he had hidden his real 
name when he took the little London lodgings. All his desire 
was to forget the horrible past and devote himself to the poor 
girl cast back to his loving arms once more by the cruel waves of 
misfortune. 

He accepted the doctor's warning, and acted upon it at once. 
He had still enough money left to last them some months with 
care, and when Bess's health was re-established he supposed they 
must set to and work, and, if Bess was too weak, why, he must 
work for the two. 

He went down to the seaside with his invalid daughter and 
nursed her day and night. He painted the future to her brightly, 
talked of setting the lawyers to work to prove George's innocence 
yet, and so buoyed her with hope that at last he saw a faint 
colour coaxed into the white cheeks again and the dull eyes grow 
bright with tears. 

As tenderly as he had watched and cherished her when she was 
a babe did the old father watch and cherish her now. 

And just as he was rejoicing over the cure which time and 
the fresh sea-breezes had effected, a new trouble presented 
itself. 

The expenses of the trip and the long period of idleness had 
absorbed all his savings, and he saw the time approaching when 
the luxuries he had indulged his sick daughter in would be un- 
obtainable, and the bare necessities of life would have to be 
earned with the sweat of his wrinkled brow and the labours of his 
old arms. 

He thought about it night and day. What could he do ? 

The mystery was solved for him. It was destined that after 
the long labour of his years he should toil no more. 

One morning he did not come to his daughter's room as was 
his wont. He had waited on her hand and foot. He had risen 
first and done the menial work of the little rooms they rented in 
a side street. He had pottered about in his old-fashioned 



A JO URAE \ ' 'S END. 2 1 5 

country way, and put things skip-shape, and then gone up to the 
invalid's room with a gentle step, carrying her a cup of tea made 
with his own hand. 

One morning ]>ess woke and heard the clock strike. 

It was an hour later than her father's usual time to stand by 
her bedside. 

Alarmed, she rose and dressed herself hurriedly, taxing her 
new-found strength. 

She went across to his room, knocked, and received no 
answer. 

She pushed the door open and ran to the bedside. 

'Father,' she cried, 'are you ill ? Speak, father, speak !' 

The face — the dear old face that had never frowned on her — 
lay on the pillow still, though the sun was high. There was a 
sweet smile on it, such as she had often seen there in the days 
before their troubles came. It was a calm, happy face that Bess 
gazed upon that morning, and well it might be, for all the old 
lodge-keeper's troubles were over at last. The poverty he had 
dreaded would never come upon him now. The labour he had 
nerved himself for he would never be called upon to do. God 
had willed it otherwise, and had called him home to rest. 

Who shall say that that night in his dreams fancy had not 
touched his eyelids with her fairy fingers and bidden him see the 
old happy home-life once again ? 

He had died in his sleep with a smile upon his honest face. 

And the woman who clasped the cold hand, and knelt by the 
little bed and sobbed, was henceforth alone in the world. 



CHAPTER XLV. 

A FRIEND IN NEED. 

Mrs. Adrian never read the newspaper herself. Her eyes ' were 
not what they used to be,' and she declined to avail herself of the 
artificial aid of glasses. She had tried spectacles at first, but she 
had always been laying them down and losing them, or treading 
on them and breaking them. 

Mrs. Adrian's spectacles had been a fearful source of trouble 
to the whole family. If she lost them, Ruth was started all over 
the house on a tour of exploration, and Mrs. Adrian was always 
quite sure that she had put them in such and such a place, aud 
somebody must have moved them. As a rule, they were found 
in close proximity to the owner. She usually had them in her 
lap under her work, or shut in the book she had been reiding. 
One night the entire household were kept up till two in the iholh- 
ing. Mrs. Adrian lo ;t her spectacles and her temper at ihi ;amo 



216 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

time, and vowed she would not go to bed till the glasses were 
found. Under the circumstances, Ruth and Mr. Adrian felt 
bound to share her vigil, and they joined the servants in a room- 
to-room and corner-to-corner visitation. Mrs. Adrian sat in her 
easy-chair, and resolutely refused to budge till her spectacles 
were found. She wouldn't lose them for the world. It was 
fortunate that she did move at last, for she had been sitting on 
the spectacles all the time. 

When they were broken and sent to be repaired, they always 
came back with glasses that didn't suit— at least, Mrs. Adrian 
always declared so. At last, one day, after breaking a pair, 
which had been lost for nearly a week and had eventually 
turned up in the flour-barrel, where Mrs. Adrian had dropped 
them while on a tour of inspection through the larder, the good 
lady vowed and declared that she'd never wear another pair as 
long as she lived, and she did there and then incontinently 
fling the damaged pair out of the window in a temper, much 
to the astonishment of the vicar of the parish, who was passing 
at the time, and who, bowing politely to the mistress of the 
house, received the ejected spectacles in the hollow of his 
hat. 

Mrs. Adrian kept her word, and without much sacrifice on her 
part, for her eyesight was still fairly good, and she could do her 
knitting and her darning without glasses. 

But she declared she couldn't read, and so, for her edifica- 
tion, Ruth was requested to read the morning paper aloud — 
that is, such portions of it as she thought would be interesting 
to her mother. 

Under these circumstances the concealment of the failure of 
the Great Blankshire Bank for a time was not so difficult a task 
as it would otherwise have been. 

Mr. Adrian was loth to let the blow fall upon his wife. He knew 
that eventually she would have to know it, but he could not 
summon up courage to break it yet. 

With all her peculiarities, she had been a loyal and a devoted 
partner to him, and, looking back upon their long years of happi- 
ness and comfort, it broke his heart to think that now, in her 
old age — now, when infirmity had come upon her — the remain- 
ing years of her life might have to be passed in discomfort and 
poverty. 

He hoped that there might be better news, that the report was 
exaggerated, and that the affairs of the bank might not be so 
hopelessly involved. 

Ruth read the morning paper to her mother, but it was a 
terrible task. Over and over again her mind wandered, and 
her thoughts got mixed up with the matter she was reading 
aloud. 

Her mother noticed her peculiar manner, and Ruth explained 
that she had a bad headache and wasn't well, and Mr. Adrian 



A FRIEND IN NEED. 217 

ni--o put his haggard looks clown to a sleepless night with the 
toothache. 

It was not a happy little party that sat round the breakfast- 
table that morning, for father and daughter had the burden of a 
terrible secret to bear, and were denied that greatest of all reliefs 
in trouble, open lamentation. 

Ruth, like her father, had great hopes that the worst had been 
made of the affair. She was anxious to see Marston, and get 
him to ascertain for her all particulars. 

She was also terribly troubled about Gertie. What could she 
do with the child now ? If this sudden and complete poverty 
were coming on them, how could she burden their straitened 
resources with another mouth to feed ? 

A week passed away — a week of terrible anxiety. Every 
paper teemed with details of the great bank failure, and harrow- 
ing stories of the force with which the blow would fall upon the 
unhappy shareholders. 

During the week Marston called once or twice, but Gurtli 
never came near. 

Marston heard from Ruth what had happened, but refrained 
from mentioning it in the presence of Mrs. Adrian, and he had 
no opportunity of seeing the old gentleman alone. 

Mr. Adrian noticed the fact that Gurth, who had once been a 
constant visitor, now never came near the place. 

He imagined that his connection with the collapsed bank was 
known, and that the wealthy Mr. Egerton, whose attentions to 
Ruth had been once so marked, was afraid to continue the 
acquaintance, lest he might be asked for assistance. 

It stung the old man's pride to think that perhaps some such 
idea was in the mind of Ruth's admirer. 

He felt really grateful to Marston, whose conduct was in 
striking contrast to that of his rival. 

From looking forward to his visits, and finding relief in his 
company, he began to regard him as a friend in need. He longed 
for some one to whom he could unburden himself about the 
terrible calamity which had come upon him, some one whose 
advice he could ask, and whose assistance he could claim. 

One evening Marston and he were left alone. Mrs. Adrian 
was not very well, and Ruth had gone upstairs to see if she 
wanted for anything. 

Mrs. Adrian, out of sorts generally, wanted a great many 
things, but most of all she needed some one to grumble at, and 
when she got Ruth upstairs she was loth to let her go while 
there was a fault to be found or a lament to be uttered. 

Left alone with Marston, half hesitatingly at first, he intro- 
duced the subject, but, gathering courage as he went on from the 
sympathetic attitude of his listener, he gradually poured out the 
whole story of his misfortunes, and asked Marston, as a man of 



2i8 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

business and a man of the world, what he ought to do under the 
circumstances. 

Marston was delighted at the confidence reposed in him. It 
showed conclusively that he had won the esteem of Ruth's father 
— that the object for which he had so patiently toiled was not 
far distant now. 

In anticipation of some such confession, Marston had studird 
the subject, and armed himself to the teeth with figures. He 
was enabled to present the most hopeful view possible to the 
old gentleman, and almost to persuade him that if the worst 
came to the worst there would still be something left from the 
wreck of his estate. 

Gradually, beneath his cheery influence John Adrian gathered 
heart. 

' Ah,' he said, ' it docs me good to hear 7/011 talk like that. IE 
I were young I believe I could struggle through ; but I am old, 
and my energy is gone. I have no one to look to for counsel or 
help. I have no son, no one but two weak women who look to 
me for protection.' 

Marston shaped his lips for a reply and hesitated. 

For the first time in his life his self-possession, deserted 
him. 

On the way in which the words he was about to utter were 
received depended his whole future destiny. 

He recovered himself with an effort, and then, with a slight 
tremor in his voice at first, he commenced to plead the cause he 
had nearest at heart. 

With powerful eloquence and genuine feeling he besought the 
old man's attention while he, too, made a confession. Rapidly 
he told the narrative of his adventurous life, painting it in soft 
colours to attract the sympathy of his listener. He had led a 
wild youth, but that was past. A sober and laborious manhood 
had atoned for the errors of those old times. He had struggled 
on, with one object in view. In the midst of a thousand temp- 
tations he had stood firm, sustained by the thought of the reward 
which might be his, and he came to the end of the narrow path 
with unstained honour. 

He confessed his long love for Ruth. He told how he had 
determined after his first repulse to win her yet, for her s?ke to 
undo the past and return to fling himself at her feet, worthy of 
her at last. 

He pleaded so eloquently — he painted his hopes and fears with 
such genuine pathos — that the tears came into John Adrian's 
eyes more than once ; but he held his peace and let Marston 
continue his appeal. 

Gradually Marston came from the past to the present. With 
delicacy and tact he alluded to the present position of Ruth's 
father, He would do his best to extricate him from it. Would 



A FRIEND IN NEED. 219 

not Mr. Adrian give him the right to act on his behalf as one of 
the family ? 

He, Marston, was wealthy ; he had a home to offer not only 
to Ruth, but, if tlie worst came, to Ruth's father and mother. 
He might not have spoken so soon had not this calamity occurred. 
Now it was the duty of those who loved them to rally round 
them. Let the first friend to stretch out a helping hand to 
Ruth's father and mother be the man who loved their daughter 
as his own life. 

Mr. Adrian held out his hand to Marston as he uttered the 
last words of his impassioned appeal. 

' Ned,' he said — ' let me call you by the old name — if the 
answer to your prayer rested with me yon should have it at 
once. But there is Ruth to be consulted. Whatever suitor 
comes for her — be he rich or be he poor — he must ask her for 
her heart ere he comes to mc for her hand.' 

Marston, his generally emotionless face bright with a new 
expression of hope, took John Adrian's hand and clasped it. 

' Let me go now,' he said, ' and leave you to think of what I 
have said. Ask Ruth if I have her heart. If her answer be 
" No, - ' let me be still your friend. If her answer be " Yes," 
then let me be your son-in-law.' 

He smiled a pleasant smile, shook hands with his host, and 
went out hurriedly. 

He wanted air. 

A sensation most terrible had come upon him. In the midst 
of his joy at winning the consent of Ruth's father so easily — 
just when his heart was beating quicker at the thought of Ruth's 
love, which was to hallow his manhood after all — the whole 
tissue of lies he wrapped about his life was torn away. Hideous, 
monstrous, and appalling, the story seared itself in letters of 
flame upon his brain. What had he done ? He had asked 
honest old John Adrian for his daughter's hand. And when 
this hand was his, and they stood at God's altar, the name of 
Adrian would be hers no more. 

Whose would she bear in its place ? 

That of Edward Marston — liar, hypocrite, swindler, forger, 
thief. 

'Great heavens!' he cried aloud, as he paced the street at a 
rapid rate in his excitement ; ' why have I never known this 
before ? Why have I never seen how vile and loathsome sin was 
till now — now, when the greatest stake I ever played for in my 
life is all but won?' 

Answer him, ye moralists— ye who have pried into man's little 
life below with the microscope of your philosophy— ye mental 
dissectors, who have laid bare man's heart and traced each 
separate agony to its great first cause. Tell him that the way 
of transgressors is hard ; that it is in the prize we try most fiercely 
for, in the treasure we plot and plan to gain, sacrificing in the 



220 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

mad race for it all that is best and noblest in life, that we often 
find our bitterest punishment. 

Marston had won Ruth Adrian's love ; it was in the know- 
ledge of possessing that which he looked upon as the crowning 
glory of his life that his chastisement commenced. 

And even while he strode through the quiet streets, his brain 
aflame with remorse and fear, Ruth lay, happy and blushing, 
with her sweet face upon her old father's shoulder, and confessed 
her love in a few artless, womanly words. 

' God bless you, Ruth, my darling !' said the old man tenderly, 
as he raised her face, and bent his lips to hers. ' God bless you 
both !' 

Can you hear it, Edward Marston ? Up to the throne of the 
Most High, from the lips of Ruth's father, there has gone a 
prayer that God will bless you both. 

Is it not blasphemy to link those names together in a prayer ? 

Edward Marston and Ruth Adrian ! 

You have won her. She is yours for better for worse ; she is 
yours, and will bear your name ; her fate is linked with yours, 
her life bound up in you, until one of you shall kiss the cold lips 
of the other for the last time. 

And between you for ever there must hang a veil — a veil that 
must hide from the sight of all men, and from her, the ghastly 
skeletons that lie in the grave of your sinful past. 

Pray God now, as you never prayed before, then, that this 
grave may not give up its dead — that no spectre may arise 
to cry, ' Thou art the man !' and drag you down to shame 
and degradation in the sunniest hours of your first pure happi- 
ness. 

From the moment Ruth Adrian links her life with yours you 
cannot fall alone. 



CHAPTER XL VI. 

SMITH AND CO. DISSOLVE PARTNERSHIP. 

Edward Marston was engaged to Ruth Adrian, and was 
received by her parents as her accepted suitor. Mrs. Adrian, 
when the news of Marston's offer was communicated to her, was 
first indignant and then tearful. She prophesied the most 
terrible disasters ; she charged Ruth with wishing to disgrace 
the family, and vowed that she would never be civil to him — 
never ! She declared that the day Ruth married him she would 
cast her off for ever, and finally relieved her feelings by turning 
upon her husband and denouncing him as a monster in human 
shape, for ever giving his sanction to such an arrangement. She 



SMITH AND CO. DISSOLVE PARTNERSHIP. 221 

declared that Mr. Adrian would have given Ruth to a Red 
Indian, if that noble savage had only asked him ; and she in- 
dulged in a half-sarcastic sketch of her poor daughter being 
united with Red Indian ceremonies to a bridegroom dressed prin- 
cipally in a necklace of scalps, and suggested that if the marriage 
feast had consisted of cold boiled missionaries, no doubt Mr. 
Adrian would have accepted an invitation, and expected her to 
do the same. 

' My dear Mary,' exclaimed Mr. Adrian, half amused and half 
annoyed, ' what on earth has Ned Marston to do with Red 
Indians and their marriage ceremonies ? He isn't a Red Indian.' 
' No !' groaned the lady ; ' I'd sooner he was. He's worse. I 
always disliked him, and I always shall. What do you know 
about him ? "What is he but an adventurer ? And what are 
you going to say to Mr. Egerton, I should like to know ?' 

' You needn't trouble yourself about Mr. Egerton, my dear ; 
he has left the country.' 
'What?' 

' Yes. I have ascertained at his house that he has gone on a 
voyage to America, and no one knows when he will be back.' 

' Well, I'm sure !' exclaimed Mrs. Adrian ; ' and never so much 
as to call on us to say " Good-bye " !' 
' It was not polite, was it ?' 

' Polite ! But there, I never liked the man. He couldn't look 
at you straight in the face.' 

Mr. Adrian was too good a diplomatist, having once got his 
wife into a spirit antagonistic to the deposed favourite, to let the 
matter rest. He declared he could see no rudeness in it ; that a 
gentleman in Egerton's position couldn't be expected to take 
them into his confidence, etc.; and so skilfully did he play 
his cards, that at last Mrs. Adrian declared, with genuine in- 
dignation, that she believed he would lay himself down and 
let people trample on him. 

' But I won't, I can assure you,' she exclaimed. ' We're as 
good as Mr. Gurth Egerton, every bit, and Ruth's a wife any 
prince of the land might be proud of. And to think she 
should want to throw herself away on this Marston ! There, I 
haven't patience to talk about it !' 

Gradually, however, Mrs. Adrian moderated the rancour of 
her tongue. Marston was not the man, when he had set his 
heart on anything, to fail for lack of courage or ability. He 
was determined to conquer Mrs. Adrian's apathy, and he suc- 
ceeded to a limited extent. He was so pleasant, so polite, he 
yielded so readily in argument, and was so unobtrusive in his 
visits and so considerate in his attentions to the old lady, that 
at last she was good enough to acknowledge that really he had 
changed for the better, and that after all Ruth might have 
chosen a less presentable and less agreeable sweetheart. 

But while Marston was winning his way into the good graces 



222 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

of Ruth's mother, he was not neglecting the serious aspect of 
her father's affairs. He went into the business with a thorough- 
ness which quite astonished Mr. Adrian, and arrived at the result 
in a very short space of time. 

It was not an agreeable result. 

No amount of skill and no amount of juggling could solve the 
arithmetical problem in any way but one. 

Taking the estimated amount of the call to be made on each 
shareholder in the unfortunate Blankshire Bank as correct, nearly 
the whole of the capital on the interest of which the Adrians 
lived would be swept away. 

It was not a large fortune that Mr. Adrian had retired on, but 
it was one which he had always considered would be ample for 
himself and his wife with their inexpensive tastes, and for his 
daughter when they were gone. 

Marston did not attempt to hide the result for a moment. He 
put it plainly before his future father-in-law. Mr. Adrian must 
make up his mind to live for the remainder of his days upon the 
wreck of his little fortune, and that, calculated generously, would 
yield him about £150 to £200 a year. 

' We must give up this house at once,' said Mr. Adrian, with a 
sigh. ' I feel as if every penny I spend now I am defrauding the 
creditors of.' 

' Yes, you must give the house up. You cannot keep it on,' 
said Marston. He didn't feign the slightest sorrow. Why 
should he ? He was only too delighted to think that at last he 
was going to get some pleasure out of the money he had risked 
so much to get. Roughly estimated, he had cleared by his share 
in the transactions of Smith and Co. some £25,000. Some of 
the ' hauls,' as they are technically called, had been enormous. 
He could employ his £25,000 legitimately now ; and he was 
certain that with this capital and his talents he could speculate 
as successfully in honesty as he had formerly done in crime. 

' Yes, you must give up your house,' he repeated ; ' and the 
sooner the better.' 

'It is a terrible blow,' exclaimed the old man, the tears 
coming into his eyes, ' to break up the home where we've been 
so happy all these years. Poor mother — how ever shall I break 
it to her !' 

'I have a plan,' said Marston, eagerly, taking the old gentle- 
man's hand, and watching his face anxiously. ' Let this marriage 
take place as soon as possible. Ruth does not wish to be separated 
from you. Come and live with us. That can be your excuse to 
Mrs. Adrian for selling off.' 

For a moment the old man doubted if he heard aright. Then, 
smiling through the big drops that trickled down his cheek, he 
pressed the young man's hand exclaiming : 

' God bless you, Ned Marston ; you are a good fellow !' 

So in due time it was all arranged. The marriage was to take 



SMITH AND CO. DISSOLVE PARTNERSHIP. 223 

place in a short time ; there was no need for a long engagement 
now, for had not the sweethearts been as good as engaged over 
ten years ago ? Mrs. Adrian, of course, protested against the 
idea that she should give up her home and go to Ruth's ; but 
she yielded at last — yielded suddenly and decisively when Mr. 
Adrian began to oppose the idea, pretending that he had thought 
better of it. 

At the Adrians' Marston passed now the happiest hours he 
had ever known. He had grown to both admire and reverence 
his future father-in-law. The nobility of the old man's 
character was brought into full relief by the blow which 
had fallen on him so unexpectedly ; and often Marston would 
watch him as he sat with Ruth's hand in his, and wondered 
what his own old age Avould be like. He shuddered even as he 
thought of it. 

Yet when he could keep his thoughts from the past and. lose 
his dread of the future, he was supremely happy. Ruth's love 
seemed to have flung a cloak of purity about him that shielded 
and protected him. It seemed to him that he had passed from 
purgatory to paradise ; that loving Ruth, and being beloved by 
her, he was lifted to a purer atmosphere, where nothing that was 
evil could follow him. 

This was the bright side of his life during the days of court- 
ship — during the time that must pass before he could call Ruth 
his wife. 

The gold-robbery, in which he had been the leading spirit, 
bad created an enormous sensation. Not only England but the 
Continent rang with the story of the daring and mysterious theft. 

It was impossible for the authorities to say where it had taken 
place. The English company repudiated all liability, declaring 
that it had been committed on the French line ; and the French 
company were equally confident that the gold had been ab- 
stracted in England. Then both parties met on mutual ground, 
and argued that it might have been done on the steamer. The 
loss was not discovered until the safes were opened in Paris, so 
that in the lawsuits which followed there really was no Jjroof to 
offer as to where the responsibility really lay. The matter 
was eventually compromised, but no clue was obtained to the 
thieves, though the detective departments of both countries went 
into the matter con amove, in hope of elucidating the international 
mystery. 

In the meantime the thieves had had to proceed with the 
utmost caution in realizing their booty, and many an anxious 
moment had Marston to pass before he could consider himself 
the master of the little fortune his railway journey had re- 
sulted in. 

Some of the bullion was disposed of through trustworthy 
channels, where no trace would be left, but a large quantity 



224 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

of it had to be melted down before it could be conveniently got 
rid of. 

During all this time Marston had to meet and consult with 
his companions in crime. These meetings distressed and annoyed 
him. He shrank almost with horror from the familiar saluta- 
tions of Heckett, Brooks, and Preene. He felt degraded and 
contaminated by them. It seemed to him that he was outraging 
Ruth by going into her presence after he had quitted the society 
of his accomplices. 

They began to notice his altered manner and they became sus- 
picious of him. Was it possible he was going to turn traitor ? 
His face sometimes wore the nervous, anxious look which the 
professional Judas cannot always banish. But, consulting to- 
gether, Heckett, Brooks, and Preene dismissed the notion as 
absurd. How could he play them false ? It was to his interest 
not to. Besides, he had the reputation of being a chief among 
swindlers — a master-mind. It is not from such men there is 
danger to be feared. It is generally some outsider, who hasn't 
the talent to make a rogue, who proves a traitor, and, lacking 
pluck, turns his cowardice to some account. 

Marston saw that his manner was attracting notice, and he 
controlled himself directly. He hurried on the settlement, how- 
ever, and even agreed to accept less than his original share in 
order to get out of the business. 

When, in due course, everything had been safely done and the 
traces removed, the four men met for the last time in a lonely 
house which they had taken near Kilburn, and where the melt- 
ing operations had been conducted. 

It had been agreed between them that, once their joint 
property realized and the division fairly made, they should 
separate for good. Marston had long ago announced his inten- 
tion to ' turn the game up ;' Brooks had determined to get out of 
the country for a bit in case of accidents ; Preene had not said 
what he was going to do, and Heckett had been equally 
silent. He had never been very communicative, and as he was 
only an extra hand, laid on for this special job, none of them 
troubled much about him. 

When the night came, however, for them to separate, and they 
left the house, Heckett, Avho had walked on by himself, found 
that Marston was coming quickly after him. 

'Well, Josh,' he said, in his cheeriest tones, 'I don't think 
you've done badly, have you ?' 

' I ain't done as well as you,' answered Mr. Heckett, surlily ; 
' but then I ain't a swell.' 

' What are you going to do now Josh ? Going into the 
animal line again ?' 

' No, I ain't got no animals now, savin' that there parrot, as 
cusses wus nor ever. I carn't have no business now the gal's 



SMITH AND CO. DISSOLVE PARTNERSHIP. 225 

gorii. She was my light hand like, and I ain't been the same 
since she went.' 

' Oh,' said Mavston, looking at Heckett quite innocently, ' then 
she's never come back ?' 

' Come back ? no. I've heerd on her twice as she's safe and 
appy, but I ain't been able to find out where she is. In a re- 
formeratury or something, I s'pose.' 

' Very likely,' answered Marston. 

' I thought oncet as somebody had got 'old on her for to get her 
to blab about the crib ; but I don't think that, cus they'd a sent 
her back directly they found out as she know'd nothink. Still 
it's a rum go, her hookin' it like that. I shall come acrost her 
some day, I guess,' added the old dog-fancier, shaking his fist at 
an imaginary Gertie, ' and then I'll make it warm for her, the 
jade' 

They had reached the end of the Kilburn Road, and were get- 
ting to Maida Vale. 

' I'm going off here, Josh,' said Marston. ' If we don't meet 
again, good-night.' 

' If we don't meet again !' exclaimed Heckett, with surprise. 
' What, are you a-goin' to f urren parts ?' 

' Perhaps.' 

'That's ockard,' growled Heckett. 'Suppose I might want 
to see you on business ?' 

' I've finished with business.' 

Heckett contracted his features into something that was 
meant for a smile. 

' Going to retire, eh ? Made your f ortin. Well, you have 
had a good haul out of this affair, and no mistake. Come, 
gov'nor, don't you think you ought to stand me another thou.?' 

'No, I don't,' answered Mai^ton decidedly. 'A bargain's a 
bargain, and you've had your share.' 

' All right, gov'nor ; only, of course, the more I get now the 
less likely I should be to get hard up and 'ave pr'aps to come a 
ferretin' out old friends and a borrerin' of em.' 

Marston looked at his companion sharply. He understood the 
implied threat. 

1 When that misfortune happens, Josh, it will be time enough 
to talk about it. Good-night.' 

Without stopping to hear Heckett's reply, Marston turned 
away from him, crossed the road, and turned down a side street. 
He was anxious to cut the conversation short, for it annoyed 
him. 

Heckett's half -veiled threat had seriously alarmed him. He 
had so much need now to bury the past, and he didn't at all 
relish the idea of Josh Heckett pursuing him into the happy 
future which he hoped and believed awaited him. 

15 



226 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

CHAPTER XL VII. 

ME. JABEZ MAKES A DISCOVERY. 

Hee master having once again departed on his travels, Mrs. 
Turvey had plenty of leisure to attend to her own business, and 
the most important business she had on hand was Jabez. 

If the elderly clerk of Messrs. Grigg and Limpet had some 
reason to complain of Mr. G-urth Egerton coming home in the 
unexpected manner which has been fully related in the earlier 
chapters of this veracious narrative, he had also cause to com- 
plain of his equally abrupt departure, for it left him completely 
at the housekeeper's mercy. 

She gave him no peace. She pursued him, to use one of hi."? 
own poetic images, like the hunter pursues the deer ; and really, 
in the way Jabez endeavoured to evade the Nimrod in petti- 
coats, he was uncommonly like that timid quadruped. 

If he saw her at the top of the street he dodged round a corner 
and ran. If she called at the office, he hid and sent word 
he was out. Perhaps this latter practice is hardly in keeping 
with the habits of the deer, and therefore the simile breaks down. 
Jabez broke down at last. He gave in, as a weak-minded. m::n 
always does if he is only resolutely hunted by a plucky sporLs- 
woman. 

He found it better to hark back to his old tactics and dis- 
semble ; and thus it came about that during Mr. Egerton's 
absence he was a frequent patron of Mr. Egerton's tea and Mr. 
Egerton's toast. 

Now, upon several occasions there was a third party to these 
little festive gatherings, and Jabez was by no means sorry for it, 
though when he was introduced to the party aforesaid, and 
found him a railway guard and brother to his lady-love, he 
had a strong opinion that his presence was part of a deep-laid 
plot. 

' He's to be a witness,' thought Jabez to himself. ' Susan's 
to draw me out, and he is to hear what I say. Jabez, my boy, be 
on your guard — your railway guard.' 

Jabez giggled at his own little joke, and he would doubtless 
have shone, but Mrs. Turvey had taken the shine out of 
him. His friends had long remarked the disappearance of his 
shininess. They declared him to have become remarkably 
dull. 

One evening, when Jabez arrived by appointment, he found 
Mr. and Mrs. Turvey in earnest conversation. After tea Mrs. 
Turvey asked him, with a pleasant smile, if he would do her a 
favour. She particularly wanted to go out with her brother for 
half an hour, and she did not wish to leare the house empty. 



MR. JABEZ MAKES A DISCOVERY. 227 

The servant bad gone out for her monthly holiday. Would 
Jabez kindly remain and smoke his pipe and make himself com- 
fortable by the fire until Mrs. Turvey returned ? 

Mr. Turvey joined his requests to those of his sister. It was 
his last night in London. He had left his old employment as a 
railway guard, and was going into business in the north of 
England. His sister was just going to help him pack up his 
traps, etc., for he'd lost his right hand, Miss Topsey having gone 
out to service as a nursemaid. 

Jabez was quite willing to oblige without such a long expla- 
nation. 

In fact, an idea had suddenly occurred to Mr. Duck which 
rendered him personally anxious to be left alone in Gurth Eger- 
ton's house. 

When the brother and sister were gone, not without sundry 
injunctions from the lady to Jabez to be careful and not to be 
frightened of noises and ghosts, etc., that gentleman, instead of 
lighting his pipe and sitting down to a comfortable smoke, 
hunted about, found a candle, lit it, and stood still, in an atti- 
tude of deep consideration. 

'I'll search the house from top to bottom but I'll find 'em, if 
they ain't locked up,' he said. ' At any rate I can read 'em, and 
see how far I have committed myself.' 

Having first carefully examined the sitting-room, looked in all 
the cupboards, boxes, and chimney ornaments, Jabez proceeded, 
candle in hand, to find out where Mrs. Turvey's other apart- 
ments were situated. 

It was a very improper proceeding on his part — a mean and 
despicable trick, which should have caused him to blush, and 
which will, I am sure, gentle reader, cause you to blush for him. 
I will not attempt to palliate his offence. It was shocking, but 
he did it ; and Ave are compelled, in our position of faithful 
chronicler and attentive reader, to look on. But we have 
recorded our protest, and done our duty so far. Jabez soon 
found the room -dedicated to the slumbers of his Susan. 

It was full of little boxes and baskets, all of which Jabez de- 
liberately rummaged in his search for something which he had 
set his heart on finding. 

But his diligence was not rewarded. 

The time passed on, and his search grew hurried. He did not 
know how much longer he would be undisturbed. Susan had a 
latch-key, and could let herself in at any minute. 

He would put up the chaiu at the front door. He could easily 
say he was nervous. 

The idea was no sooner conceived than it was carried out. 
Xow, he was secure from surprise. Now, he could continue his 
investigations without alarm. 

Routing about, Jabez dragged some boxes out of a corner. 
One was a trunk — one of those old-fashioned mottled-paper 

15-2 



228 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

covered trunks, which servants used when their dresses were 
made without flounces and could be folded small. 

Holding the candle, and peering down, he was astonished to 
find a key in the lock. It was one of a bunch : there were a 
dozen on the ring. 

'Hum!' exclaimed Jabez ; 'here's a bit of luck. Now if I 
only knew where those precious letters are, I could get them as 
easy as anything.' 

Inside the trunk there was something which excited Jabez's 
curiosity directly. It was a cash-box, and it was locked. 

' There !' he muttered ; ' that's where she keeps her savings. 
I wonder what she's got. Perhaps the letters ,are there.' He 
rattled the box, but there was no responding chink. 

He took the keys and tried them one after the other. 

The last one fitted. 

He turned it, and the secrets of Mrs. Turvey's cash-box were 
at his mercy. 

He lifted the lid and examined the contents. At first a look 
of astonishment overspread his features, and then the long-absent 
shine came back to his face once more. It broadened and spread 
over his bald head — it deepened and wrapped him in one vast 
smile of joy. 

He drew a long breath, closed the box, put it carefully away, 
and then executed a small war-dance all to himself, knocking 
over two chairs and causing the toilet-table to rock in response to 
his elephantine gambols. 

'Hang the letters!' he exclaimed; 'I don't want 'em now. 
Who'd a thought it ? Who'd a thought it ?' 

Who, indeed, Mr. Jabez ? 

Who could have imagined that hidden away in her cash-box 
Mrs. Turvey had the savings of a lifetime, all invested in sub- 
stantial securities, with interest-bearing coupons payable to 
bearer, and amounting to the good round sum of one thousand 
pounds ? 

' Oh, she's a deep un !' exclaimed Jabez, mopping his shiny 
brow ; ' she isn't artful at all ! Oh no ; certainly not. Ah, 
Susan, my dear, if you'd only have told me this, what a lot of 
trouble you would have saved yourself and me. A thousand 
pounds ! It's yours, Jabez, my boy. It's in your pocket. I can 
feel it there.' 

Jabez gave his pocket an anticipatory pat of approval. Then 
he put everything tidy, blew out the candle, took the chain down 
from the front-door, and seated himself by the parlour fire, the 
prettiest picture of innocence and contentment imaginable. 

In about an hour Susan returned. She was loud in her 
apologies, but Jabez silenced her at once. In his most winning 
manner he assisted her off with her shawl. He was so agree- 
able Mrs. Turvey looked round to see if he'd found the whisky- 
bottle. 



MR. JADEZ MAKES A DISCOVERY 229 

' Sit down, Susan, my love ; I have something to say to yon,' 
he whispered, leading Mrs. Turvey to a seat. 

Then he poured out his affections. Then, with all the poetry 
he was capable of without referring to his Complete Edition of 
the Poets at home, he told the astonished spinster how his cold 
and cruel conduct had been a cloak under which he disguised 
his real sentiments ! How he had deceived her in order to test 
the reality of her affection for him ! 

Mrs. Turvey was completely nonplussed. It was so unexpected. 
But she was too wise a woman to play the prude now. She had 
angled too long for her fish to hesitate about bringing it to the 
bank when it had bitten. 

There and then Jabez received the assurance of complete for- 
giveness, there and then all differences were cleared up, the happy 
day more than hinted at, and the contract sealed with a solid and 
substantial kiss, that sounded through the great house and echoed 
along the untrodden corridors. 

Singing to himself and shining on everyone, Jabez trotted 
home that evening in the seventh heaven of delight. A great 
trouble — the fear of an action for breach and publicity for his 
poetic effusions — had vanished, and he had found his hitherto 
repugnant lady-love an heiress blessed with a thousand golden 
charms. 

Jabez was so polite and agreeable that evening at home that 
Georgina was quite astonished. She also noticed the sudden re- 
appearance of his long-lost shininess. 

She teased him ; but it was no good — he shone. She contra- 
dicted him — he shone. She gave him a piece of dry cheese 
and some flat beer left from dinner for his supper — he shone. 
She turned the gas off at the meter and went to bed early, 
leaving him alone with the candle in the parlour, but still he 
shone. And after Georgina had retired, he pulled the guttering 
scrap of candle allowed him nearer to his elbow, produced a lead- 
pencil and a piece of paper, and commenced to compose an adver- 
tisement : 

MR. JABEZ DUCK, for many years CONFIDENTIAL 
CLERK with Messrs. GRIGG & LIMPET, begs to 
inform the Nobility and Gentry he has OPENED a PRIVATE 
INQUIRY OFFICE. Investigations conducted with the Greatest 
Secrecy and Dispatch.' 

To start a private inquiry office, have secrets poured into his 
ear, and to revel in an atmosphere of mystery, was the dream of 
his life. 

Susan and her thousand would enable him to turn his dream 
into an absolute reality. 



2 3 o ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

CHAPTER XL VIII. 

ME. SETH PREENE EXECUTES A LITTLE COMMISSION, 

Maeston was supremely happy when he was with Ruth, but 
when he was alone he was perpetually haunted by fears and mis- 
givings. Twenty times over he would have cast his share of the 
gold robbery away, if with it he could have got rid of Heckett. 
He had no fear of the others. Preene and Brooks were honour- 
able men in the sense in which the word is understood by fine- 
art criminals. They were no more likely, even if their self- 
interest did not protect them, to round upon an accomplice, than 
the merchants and city magnates who meet together and float 
schemes for swindling the public are likely to denounce their 
co-conspirators. With these two worthies fraud was as much a 
business as account-cooking, secret promotion money, and lying 
prospectuses were to certain speculators whose dinners were once 
eaten by bankers and merchant-princes, and whose society was 
courted by the aristocracy. They had their code of morality. 
They swindled, but the nature of their business led them to 
swindle those who could generally afford to lose. Mr. Brooks 
was loud in his denunciation of the respectable gentlemen who 
preyed upon the poor, and who held out alluring baits for the 
small incomes of widows, curates, and retired officers. 

Marston knew that so far as Brooks was concerned there was 
no fear, and Preene was too friendly to him ever to do him an 
injury. Besides, Preene could not betray him without injuring 
himself. His position was delicate in the extreme. He was 
secretly connected with the detective department, and it was his 
business always to be hand-and-glove with rogues. Marston had 
secured him long ago, struck his bargain, paid his price, and 
made him safe. Marston held the man's fate in his hands. 
He alone of all the band knew Preene's real position. A 
word from him would have cleared up the mystery of many a 
sudden arrest, of many a well-laid scheme which had been nipped 
in the bud. 

Preene was a modern Jonathan Wild, but his double game was 
never suspected. The authorities had no idea that he ran with 
the hare, and the hare had not the slightest suspicion that he 
hunted with the hounds. 

But though Marston was sure of Preene and Brooks, he felt 
supremely uncomfortable. Josh Heckett had been necessary to 
him, and he had used him at a time when he had no idea 
of a career in which Josh Heckett would be a thorn in his 
side. 

He had always held the old dog-fancier safe ; but, now that he 
was about to marry and settle down into respectability, he 



MR. PREEXE EXECUTES A COMMISSION. 231 

foresaw occasions when Josh Heckett might be very objection- 
able. 

He would no longer be at liberty to adopt allancs and disguises, 
to keep up connections with friends at Scotland Yard, to rush 
about the country and lead the life of a vagabond. 

He was about to take a position in society — to be a fixture, as 
it were — to create ties which would bind him to a life of respect- 
ability. He would have to stand boldly before the world. 
There could be no hide-and-seek, no mystery. He was a rogue 
and a vagabond no longer. He was to be Edward Marston, 
Esquire, with a wife, a town house, servants, friends, and fol- 
lowers. He must be ' get-at-able ' by visitors, tradespeople, post- 
men, and all sorts and conditions of men. How could he hold 
his head high and let all men see him, and yet avoid Josh 
Heckett ? 

He regretted now that he had ever had anything to do with 
Heckett. The idea that some day, just when he least expected 
him, this man would come prowling about, v/ould discover his 
fear and prey upon it, and perhaps embitter his life for years, 
preyed upon him. At last he thought of nothing else. Ruth's 
image at times was banished by the figure of the burly old 
ruffian in whose company he had committed his first folly, and 
that which he fully intended should be his last crime. 

He worked himself up into a nervous state, and Ruth 
noticed it. 

What was worrying him ? Could he have any secrets from 
her now ? 

Mr. Adrian noticed it, and so did Mrs. Adrian. Marston grew 
alarmed. Was he already beginning to carry his heart on his 
sleeve ? Was he so thoroughly afraid of Josh Heckett — an 
ignorant ruffian, a mere tool — he, Edward Marston, whose daring 
and skill had carried him safely through ten years of open 
defiance of all laws, human and divine? 

He attempted to laugh the idea away, and failed. Then he 
grew furious. He paced his room, and cursed this man who 
came between him and his happiness at the very threshold of his 
new life. He brooded over it, and grew desperate. Slowly and 
deliberately he set himself to conquerthe difficulty. It was no 
time for hesitation. 

' I will wed Ruth a free man,' he cried fiercely. ' I will sweep 
this trouble from my path now, when I can — while it is in my 
power to do it !' 

The resolve once taken, Marston determined to lose no time, 
lest he should repent. 

But he, who in the old time had entered on many a scheme of 
villainy with a light heart, actually hesitated and grew nervous 
about such a trifle as putting a dangerous foe out of the 
way. 

1 Is my punishment already beginning ?' he cried, later on, aa 



2j2 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

he looked at bis pale face in the glass. ' Arn I never to be free 
from the hideous nightmare of the past ?' 

He paced the room, not with his old bold, firm stride, but with 
rapid, uncertain steps. He kept glancing at the clock nervously, 
and listening, as though he expected a visitor. 

It was just on eight o'clock, and the gas was alight in the dining- 
room of Eden Villa. A mass of papers was on the table before 
him. He had been going into his future plans, making calcula- 
tions and directing letters. But the papers were all confusion. 
He had been unable to settle down ; an hour ago he had pushed 
his work aside and begun to pace the room. That was seven 
o'clock, and he did not anticipate a visitor till eight, yet he was 
in a fever of expectation. 

As the clock struck there was a knock at the door. Marston 
hurried out into the hall and opened it himself. He returned 
with a gentleman whose complexion was dark, and whose nose 
was of the kind known as ' hook.' 

For an hour Mr. Preene sat and conversed with the master of 
Eden Villa. They talked in a low tone. Marston's voice 
trembled and his face was stern and white. 

' For both our sakes you must do it, Preene. I assure you 
my information's right.' 

' I can't think it,' answered Preene. ' How the deuce could 
he blow on us without letting himself in ?' 

' The reward is big, and it's payable to any person not being 
the actual perpetrator.' 

' But that's just what he was. He broke the safes open. 
Why, he was the principal. You're wrong, Marston ; I'm sure 
there's no fear from any one. Turvey's resigned and gone 
north out of the way, Brooks is as safe as a house, and Heckitt 
daren't open his mouth. Why, he could be lagged for half a 
dozen burglaries if I only held up my finger. You're wrong, 
I'm sure.' 

' Perhaps I am. Let us put it another way. Suppose you 
were offered a thousand pounds to get Heckett out of the way, 
could you do it ?' 

' Get him lagged, do you mean ?' 

' No ; once in custody he might round, with an idea of turning 
Queen's evidence and getting off.' 

' Of course. What do you want me to do, then ? You don't 
want me to have him ' 

Preene hesitated for a word. 

Marston held up his hand deprecatingly. 

'No, not that. God forbid that I should have any man's 
blood upon my head ! But surely you can get him away — force 
him out of the country V A thousand if you do. Come 1' 

Preene sat for a moment or two in deep thought. 

' I'll try it,' he said presently ; ' but it will be bad for us if I 



MR. PREENE EXECUTES A COMMISSION. 233 

fail. If he gets an idea we're playing him false he'll never 
leave us.' 

' But you must not fail !' cried Marston hoarsely. ' Come to 
me and say, " Josh Heckett's gone, he'll trouble us no more," 
and I'll give you a thousand pounds.' 

Preene rose to go. 

'I accept the terms,' he said, 'and I'll do my best. There's 
only one way to do it.' 

' When shall I know the result ?' 

' By this time to-morrow.' 

' So soon ?' 

' Yes. I must strike at once ; and when I strike, the blow 
will either settle Josh or us.' 

More than that Preene would not say. He declined to enter 
into any explanation of his plans. 

All that night Marston never closed his eyes ; Preene' s words 
rang in his ears. If he failed ! Bah ! he wouldn't fail ! lie 
would get rid of Heckett. He would start a false hue and cry 
after him. He guessed his plan to frighten him out of the 
country under the idea that the truth was known and he must 
escape. 

He passed the day in an agony of suspense. 

He had an appointment with Ruth ; he sent the servant round 
with a note to say important business detained him. 

He dared not see her. He could not have concealed his 
anxiety and his trouble from her. 

As the hours wore on and the time drew near when he would 
know the result of Preene's attempt, he was like a madman. 
A feeling such as he had never known before came upon him. 
The room was too small for him. He flung the windows open, 
and still the big drops of perspiration came upon his face. 

Gradually the excitement wore itself out and he became 
calmer. He passed from one extreme to the other. He sat in 
the arm-chair near the window, pale, calm, and motionless. It 
was the calmness of despair. He felt sure noAV that Preene 
would fail, and fail in such a way that Heckett would be con- 
verted into a deadly enemy. He wondered what he should do 
if Heckett grew reckless and turned informer. Should he run 
away, or should he shoot himself ? Oh, the gold ! the cursed 
gold ! What Avas the weight of all those precious bars to the 
weight lying on his heart now ? 

He remembered strange things as he sat there thinking. He 
remembered that when he was a lad his mother read bits out of 
the Bible to him and sang him children's hymns. He remem- 
bered something about conscience and the evil-doer, and he re- 
membered there was a passage in the Bible about the way of 
transgressors being hard. 

He was not repenting his evil deeds j^et ; they were only 
revenging themselves on him. He wa3 only just beginning to 



234 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

find out that a man can't put his sins behind his back, be good 
and live happy ever after, just when he takes it into his head. 
He had thought in winning Ruth's love once more he was 
winning happiness, and the greatest misery he had ever known 
in his life had come upon him now he was her affianced 
husband. 

The striking of the clock upon his mantelpiece broke in upon 
his reverie. One ! two / three / four ! five / six ! seven ! eight ! 

The hour had come ! 

He rose to his feet and listened for the sounds in the street. 

The clock ticked away the seconds and still no Preene. 

Five minutes past! ten minutes past! a quarter! At the 
quarter a sound. Footsteps coming huriiedly along the front 
path. He rushed into the hall and opened the door. 

A figure, big and burly, brushed past him, and dashed through 
the open door of the dining-room. 

Terrified he followed, and the figure faced round. 

It was not Preene. 

It was Heckett ! 

His face was red and swollen with passion. The great veins 
gorged with blood stood out like ridges, the blood-shot eyes 
were set like those of a tiger that bounds upon its prey. 

Marston would have started back, but Heckett seized him by 
the arm, and, swinging him round into the centre of the room, 
stood with his back against the door. 

' So, Mr. Ned Marston,' he cried, with a fierce volley of oaths, 
' this is your game, is it ? You want to get rid of me, cus I 
knows too much, and you must set that sneaking hound of a 
Preene on to me, to funk me out of the blooming country. But 
I'm not to be caught so easy, you thundering varmint !' 

' What do you mean ?' gasped Marston. 

' Mean, you sweep ? Why, I mean what I say. Preene came 
to me, a-telling me there was a warrant out, and you was wanted, 
and Turvey had split ; and he gave me a hundred, and told me 
to get over the pond as quick as lightnin' But I was fly, 
guv'nor — too fly for you. I watched Preene come in here larst 
night, and I guessed you wasn't up to no good. So you're going 
to retire, are you ? And you wanted to get me out o' the way, 
for fear I should disturb you ? Oh, you're a artful cove, you 
are, Ned Marston.' 

Marston made no answer. His white face betrayed him. 
He saw himself in the power of a master-ruffian. He knew that 
Heckett would never forgive the attempted treachery. 

' Now, look here, mate,' roared Heckett. ' I'm going to take 
Preene's advice.' 

Marston looked at him wonderingly. 

' Yes, I'm goin' to obleege you ; but as you sets such a vally 
on my room hinsted o' my cumpeny, you must pay a fail' 
price. 



MR. PREENE EXECUTES A COMMISSION. 235 

Marston hesitated. 

' And if I give you what you ask,' he said, ' what guarantee 
have I that you won't molest me again.' 

' None,' answered Heckett. ' None, you double-faced cheat ! 
You've started the rounding game, and it's one as I can play at 
too. If you don't pay me handsome, I'll split on the whole 
d d lot of you. Come !' 

He had raised his voice, and was shouting so loud that neither 
of them heard a ring at the front door. The servant opened it, 
and the next moment Seth Preene walked into the room. 

He closed the door and faced Heckett defiantly. 

' You've come then ?' he said. 

' Yes. I told you I would.' 

' You fool !' answered Preene ; ' you've only fallen into a trap. 
Y\Vre tracked, every one of us. Hark !' 

At that moment there came a loud rap at the door. 

Marston turned ghastly white, and looked for some means of 
excape. Heckett drew a revolver from his pocket and turned 
like a beast at bay. 

' Tell the girl not to open the door !' cried Preene ; and 
Marston went to the top of the stairs and shouted down to the 
terrified girl to stay where she was. 

The knocking was repeated louder and louder. Heckett gave 
a glance at the hall window. It was high, and looked on to the 
garden. 

' I'm d d if I'm going to be taken like a rat in a hole,' he 

shouted ; and he leapt out into the darkness. 

There was a cry, a fierce oath, and then the sound of a shot, 
and footsteps hurrying across the garden. 

Seth Preene ran to the window. 

Marston, pale as death, followed him. ' What shall we do ?' he 
whispered ; ' the place is surrounded.' 

'Bosh!' said Preene, 'it's all right ; but I'm afraid the poor 
devil outside 's been hit.' 

He leant out and called, ' Dickson ! Dickson 1' 

A faint voice answered him. 

' Help ! help ! I'm hit ! He's shot me !' 

' What, in Heaven's name, does this mean ?' gasped Marston, 
grasping Preene's arm. 

' What does it mean ? Why, that I've earned my thousand 
pounds, and that one of my men's been shot by that scoundrel 
Heckett.' 

' One of your men ?' 

' Yes. One back and one front did the trick. You didn't 
want mu to bring a dozen.' 

' Then it's all a ' 

' Exactly ; that's just what it is. I knew Heckett watched me 
here last night, and I didn't tell you, because I saw you were 
nervous already. I formed my scheme on that, and played m^ 



236 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

cards so as to force him up here to-night. It was the best place 
for a sham arrest I could think of. But bring a light and some 
water, and show us the way into the garden. I don't want the 
poor devil outside to bleed to death.' 

Marston led the way below like a man in a dream. 

He could hardly realize that he was free of Heckett, and 
that the terrible scene he had just gone through was mere 
pretence. 

He had endured the agony of discovery — he had passed in 
those few minutes through the supremest torture. Now he 
could foresee what awaited him if ever he should be run to 
earth in stern reality. 

The man outside was only slightly wounded, and was able to 
go with the one who had been stationed in front to the hospital. 
It was a flesh wound, and nothing serious. 

When they were alone Preene explained fully to the astonished 
Marston what he had done. ' I wouldn't tell you before because 
I relied upon your terror to do the trick. If you hadn't 
been frightened, Heckett would have smelt a rat. By Jove ! 
you were in a state, Marston. I don't think you'll die game, 
you know.' 

' Don't, for Heaven's sake,' cried Marston, with a shudder. 
' But these men, what will they think ?' 

' That I came up here to arrest a suspected swindler, and that 
he's got clear away. They know me. Heckett will clear off 
now double quick, and you won't see him in a hurry. He's 
bound to believe it was a genuine arrest, and he's shot a police- 
man, and, for all he knows, killed him.' 

Marston drew a long breath, and poured himself out half a 
tumblerful of brandy. 

' It would almost have been a good job if he had killed him 
quite,' he said, with a ghastly smile. ' I fancy even Josh Heckett 
would hesitate about running his head into a noose.' 

Preene elevated his eyebrows. 

' My dear Marston,' he exclaimed, ' in these matters you are 
evidently not at home. You don't suppose I shall miss such an 
opportunity of completing my contract with artistic skill ? For 
the sequel of this adventure read to-morrow's papers. I am 
going to the Telegraph office now. Ta-ta. I hope I shall see 
you looking better when I call to settle.' 

The next day Marston turned to the Daily Telegraph, and was 
astonished to read the following paragraph : 

'Last evening a policeman, while endeavouring to arrest a 
well-known burglar and bad character in the north of London, 
was shot by the ruffian and dangerously wounded. He is not 
expected to live many hours, the hospital authorities having no 
hope of his recovery.' 

The paragraph was deliciously vague. It was sent in through 



JiJR. PREENE EXECUTES A COMMISSION. 237 

an official channel and inserted. No hospital was mentioned, 
and nothing more was heard of the event. It was nobody's 
business to contradict or explain it. 

But Marston read it, and he acknowledged that Seth Preene 
had indeed carried out his undertaking like a true artist. 

And hurrying down that morning in a fast train to the coast, 
shaved and disguised, a big burly fellow, dressed like a seafaring 
man, bought a paper and asked a young gentleman who accom- 
panied him to look it through and see if there were any murders 
or anything in the professional way. 

And the young gentleman's quick eye caught that paragraph 
and he read it aloud, and the old seafaring fellow seemed to feel 
for the policeman very much, for his mouth twitched and he 
looked as if riding with his back to the engine didn't agree with 
him. 

At the terminus, a point of embarkation for emigrants, the 
young gentleman and the seafaring man parted company. 

' Good-bye Josh. God bless yer. Sorry yer-r got to go, but 
I 'spose yer must. Come back soon.' 

' Good-bye, Boss,' answered the sailor ; ' and don't forgit what 
I've told yer, and yer can keep the parrut.' 

' Thank yer, Josh. It'll remind me o' you often. I shall 
fancy it's you a torking sometimes when it's extra strong in its 
languidge. Come back soon, old pal.' 

' All right — now you hook it. I don't want to be seen along 
of nobody.' 

'All right, Josh! but, bless you, nobody knows me here — I 
arn't distinguished enough in the perfesshun yet to be a universal 
sileberity.' 

The friends parted, the young sinner and the old. The young 
sinner went back to London, and the sinner went over the seas, 
with the suspicion that he was a murderer added to the many 
things which should have been on his conscience if he had such 
an article in his kit. 



CHAPTER XLIX. 

MR. MARSTON GOES TO CHURCH. 

The affairs of Mr. John Adrian having been thoroughly investi- 
gated, it was found that the tremendous call already made by the 
liquidators of the Great Blankshire Bank would sweep away so 
much of his capital that, after clearing off other outstanding 
liabilities, he would have an income of about £200 a year from 
all sources wherewith to enjoy himself for the remainder of his 
days, support his wife, maintain his daughter, and keep a little 



2.3b ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

girl and a dog, that daughter's proteges. Since the crash, how- 
ever, one item in this catalogue had been removed. Mr. Edward 
Marston had very generously offered to take Ruth off her father's 
hands. 

Marston and Ruth were discussing the future together one 
morning, and naturally Gertie's unfortunate position had to be 
considered. 

' Whatever shall I do about Gertie, Ned ?' said Ruth. ' I 
can't leave her a burden upon poor papa now, and I can't turn 
her out and desert her, for it was really my fault that she lost 
her home.' 

' A pretty home !' answered Marston. ' But I have no cause 
to speak against it, for it was there I met you, Ruth. I often 
wonder if things would have turned out as they have but for 
that chance meeting.' 

' I wonder,' said Ruth, with a far-away look in her beautiful 
eyes. ' Oh, Ned, do you know I often think how strange it was 
that poor Gertie should be the means of bringing us together 
again ! I never thought, when I took pity on a poor neglected 
little girl in the Dials, that my reward was to be so great. We 
owe a good deal to Gertie.' 

' Of course we do, my darling, and so we won't be ungrateful. 
I tell you what, Ruth, if you wish it, Gertie and Lion shall come 
and live with us.' 

' Oh, you dear, good boy, do you really mean it ?' 

' Of course I do. Do you think I couldn't see that you were 
worried about the child ?' 

Ruth was delighted at Marston's plan, for she really had been 
troubled about Josh Heckett's grand-daughter. She knew that 
her mother and father were to make their home with them, but 
she had not dared to broach the subject of Gertie. It seemed 
like trespassing on Marston's generosity. 

John Adrian had accepted Marston's offer very gratefully, but 
it had been somewhat difficult to explain matters to Mrs. Adrian, 
or to persuade her to consent to the arrangement. 

Ruth had put it in a very nice filial way. She had pleaded 
that she could not bear to be separated from her parents or to 
leave them in their old age, and that, as Ned was agreeable, it 
would be so nice for them all to live together. 

' And besides, mamma,' she added, ' look what a saving it will 
be to us all to have a nice large house between us.' 

' Ah, yes, that's all very well,' answered Mrs. Adrian ; ' but 
who's to be mistress ? You know, my dear, I have my little 
fancies, and so have you. It won't do for me to tell the servants 
one thing and you to tell them another. I don't want to make 
you uncomfortalle, and perhaps cause words between you and 
your husband.' 

' Oh, nonsense, mamma !' said Ruth, with a little laugh. 
'You shall have your own apartments, and one day I'll be 



MR. MARSTON GOES TO CHURCH. 239 

mistress and the next day you shall. There — won't it be 
fun !' 

' I don't know, my dear. I'm too old to play at keeping 
house.' 

Ruth persisted in her attempts to make the old lady enter into 
her plans, and at last she succeeded. 

Mrs. Adrian was secretly gratified by her daughter's un- 
willingness to be separated from her, and she was nattered by 
Marston's plea that she would be so useful to two young house- 
keepers. 

A new house was to be taken, and she was asked to fix the 
locality. She was to help choose the furniture, and her voice 
was to be paramount in everything. 

Their plan succeeded admirably. In about a fortnight the 
old lady was heard to talk about ' my new house,' and in three 
weeks it was Ruth and Marston who were to be specially favoured 
by being allowed to live in it. 

Marston was delighted. He was positively enthusiastic over 
curtains and carpets, and he ran about with long lists of domestic 
requirements in his pockets with the glee of a child who is buy- 
ing ornaments for a Christmas-tree. 

He was in the first glow of a new happiness— the happiness 
o£ doing something to benefit his fellow-creatures. He was 
secretly delighted that the Adrians were ruined. It would be 
a pleasure to him to support them, to make their later days 
happy. 

As to Ruth, he worshipped her. Never had damsel more 
devoted swain ; and she, thinking of his many deeds of kindness 
to her and hers, would often lift up her eyes with thankfulness 
to heaven and thank God for giving her the love of so loyal and 
devoted a man. And to think she had once doubted him — 
believed him a bad, wicked man at the very time when ho was 
nobly atoning for the follies of his neglected, over-tempted 
youth ! 

Marston saw a good deal of Gertie now, and he took a new 
interest in the child. Now and then she would talk of the old 
life in Little Queer Street, and of her grandfather, and the 
animals, and of the strange gentlemen who used to come 
there. 

Seeing the child so constantly, Marston's thoughts often re- 
verted to her strange career and the life histories bound up in 
it. 

What he knew of Gertie he had never breathed to Ruth. His 
shot at Gurth Egerton had been a chance one, but it had evidently 
hit home. 

When he found that Gurth had gone away and left the coast 
clear, he felt sure that something he had said had seriously alarmed 
him. 

As Gertie grew more and more into the young lady, Marston 



240 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

recognised more than ever the likeness to the man who had come 
to a violent end in Josh Heckett's gambling den. 

Intuitively he felt that Gertie was a thorn in Gurth's side. 
For her to be living in his (Marston's) house, his ward, as it 
were, would be a strange revolution of the wheel of fate. He 
felt, moreover, that it would be galling to Gurth. He did not 
forget that Gurth had once expressed a desire to do something 
for Gertie himself. 

He determined as soon as he was married and had settled 
down that he would try and find out a little more than he knew 
at present of the child's antecedents and of the circumstances of 
Ralph's death. 

Birnie undoubtedly knew a good deal more than he pretended 
to, and Birnie was not so thick with Gurth for nothing. 

Marston remembered that Gurth had confessed it was he who 
had paid the five hundred pounds Birnie had given him on his 
return from America. 

' Birnie knows something,' he said to himself, ; and I'm not at 
all sure that Gertie's name wouldn't figure in his secret if it were 
revealed. I'm not only doing the right thing in taking care of 
the child, but I believe I'm doing a very judicious thing. She 
may be a capital buffer one of these days if Mr. Gurth Egerton 
should come running on to my line in defiance of the danger 
signals.' 

So it was finally settled that Gertie, and Lion should be figures 
in Ruth's new home. 

Apart from all other selfish consideration, Marston comforted 
himself with the idea that if he had driven the child's natural 
guardian out of the country,- he was with poetic justice providing 
for her himself. 

The more he thought of Gertie, the more it seemed to him 
that she was to be a central figure in his future. 

Heckett, Gurth, Ruth — the new life and the old, both were 
bound up with this pretty blue-eyed girl of eleven, who had 
come to gentle Ruth Adrian to save Edward Marston from peril, 
and who was to find her future home beneath Edward Marston's 
roof. 

The arrangements for the wedding progressed rapidly, the 
new house was taken and furnished, and gradually the day 
approached when Ruth's old home would be broken up and a 
new life would commence for them all. 

Marston was happy when he was with Ruth, but at home by 
himself he had occasional fits of despondency. The gold robbery 
kept cropping up in various shapes and forms. Now and again 
there was a paragraph in the papers stating that the detectives 
were on the track, and that the deed was ascribed to a gang of 
accomplished swindlers who had long defied detection. 

Marston never read these rumours without experiencing a 
feeling of terror which it took him some time to banish. It was 



MR. MARS TON GOES TO CHURCH. 241 

not for bis own fate he trembled — it was the idea of Ruth find- 
ing herself mated to a felon. 

lie banished the thought with a supreme effort. He flung 
the vision of the future from him with an oath. 

' I will be happy !' he cried. ' I can't think what's come to 
me. I never knew what fear was till now.' 

Ruth wished to be married quietly, and Mars ton was quite 
agreeable. They had no friends they wished to invite. Gertie 
was to be the only bridesmaid. Marston was asked whom he 
should have for best man. That puzzled him. He hadn't a 
friend in the world he would care to stand by his side when he 
took sweet Ruth Adrian to be his partner in the journey that 
lay before him. 

No link should be there to connect the old life with the 
new. 

He said he would think about it, and he did. After much 
cogitation he came to the conclusion that he couldn't have one 
at all. 

The idea worried him. He knew then that all his life long 
he had never made a friend whom he dare introduce into the 
little family circle from which he was taking the chief orna- 
ment. 

' We'll have the wedding very quiet, my darling,' he said. ' I 
■won't have a best man. Gertie can be your bridesmaid, and 
with your father to give you away, and your mother to say the 
responses loud, that's all the company we shall want. We shall 
be happy enough by ourselves.' 

Ruth was quite willing. But there was one point which 
Marston didn't care about, but on which Mrs. Adrian was firm. 
He wanted to be married by license, but Mrs. Adrian insisted 
that they should be asked in church, and Marston could not offer 
any determined opposition. 

On the first Sunday that the banns were published, Ruth 
made Marston promise to go to church with her. 

He went. 

As he passed into the sacred edifice a strange chill came to his 
heart — a sensation of dread stole over him. 

He could not account for it. Something in the quiet of the 
place, in the reverent attitude of the worshippers, in the sonorous 
and musical voice of the officiating priest, pleading to an unseen 
power in the poetic and soul-stirring language of the Prayer- 
book ; indeed, the whole service impressed and pained him. 

He had been a scoffer all his life. He had lived in an atmo- 
sphere not so much of unbelief as of indifference. Sitting by 
the side of Ruth Adrian, bowing his head mechanically with the 
rest, he found himself repeating the cry for mercy of the Litany, 
' Lord have mercy upon us, miserable sinners,' and he felt awe- 
stricken as he thought of the ghastly reality of such a prayer 
upon his lips. 

1G 



242 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

He sat dreamily and moodily through the after part of the 
service. He heard his name given out coupled with Ruth's, and 
he almost expected some one to leap up from among the congre- 
gation and cry aloud that there was indeed just cause and im- 
pediment why these two should not be joined together in holy 
matrimony. 

He would have rushed out of the building had he dared, for 
he felt that he was challenging Heaven. 

"When the clergyman ascended the pulpit and gave out the text 
for the senium, he singled out Marston by the merest accident in 
the world, and preached straight at him. The text was from 
Proverbs, ' The way of transgressors is hard.' 

The preacher was earnest and eloquent. He drew a powerful 
picture of the life of the evildoer here below. He showed how 
amid a show of outward happiness the canker-worm was always 
present to prey upon the heart of the evildoer. He painted in 
vivid colours the fate of men who transgressed in their desire for 
wealth and pleasure ; and he concluded a powerful sermon by 
declaring that often, in attaining the prize for which he had 
steeped his soul in sin, the transgressor did but grasp the instru- 
ment of his own undoing, and find his bitterest punishment 
where he had looked for his greatest happiness. 

Every word fell upon Edward Marston's heart with cruel 
force. His eyes were riveted on the preacher, and it seemed to 
him as though he had been singled out and denounced — as 
though in this sacred edifice, on the very threshold of his new 
life, the voice of offended Heaven had uttered his condemna- 
tion. 

He gave a deep sigh of regret when he found himself once 
more in the open air. Ruth took his arm, and they walked home 
together, for Marston was to dine with them. 

He shook off the feeling of despondency and dread that had 
come upon him, and managed, with a great effort, to hide his low 
spirits from the company. 

But when Ruth sat with him by the window that evening as 
the shadows deepened, and the holy calmness of a Sabbath eve 
crept over the quiet streets, and talked to him lovingly and hope- 
fully of the future, his thoughts were far away. He was think- 
ing of the preacher's words, and wondering what punishment 
fate held for him in the days to come. • 



'FOR BETTER. FOR WORSE. 7 243 

CHAPTER L. 

'for better, for worse.' 

' Happy is the bride that the sun shines upon,' says the old pro- 
verb ; and the sun shone bravely for Ruth Adrian's wedding- 
day. 

It poured in chastened splendour through the stained-glass 
windows of the quiet church, and fell upon Ruth Adrian as she 
knelt at the altar, her head bowed, and her sweet eyes filled with 
tears of happiness and love. 

There were no omen-readers there to croak and prophesy, or 
they would have noticed how strangely this strange stream of 
sunshine divided bride and bridegroom. It caught the window 
at an angle which threw it on half the church only, leaving the 
other half untouched. While Ruth was bathed in its bright 
warm beams, Marston stood always wrapped in the shadow. 

As the solemn words of the service fell from the lips of the 
clergyman, the voice woke in the bridegroom's heart the memory 
of the sermon that had seemed like a warning and a threat to 
him on the day the banns were first published. 

The solemn charge, ' I require and charge you both, as ye will 
answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all 
hearts shall be disclosed,' caused him to wince as the eyes of the 
clergyman met his. 

Was he always to be haunted like this ? Could he never shake 
off this strange new consciousness that had come upon him ? 

He looked at Ruth almost sorrowfully once as the thought 
flashed upon him that perhaps in the far-off future she might 
look back and curse the day that made her his. 

But she answered his glance with a sweet smile, and it seemed 
as though a new heaven opened for him — a heaven in which he 
might forget the past and be at rest. 

Oh, how fervently he hoped that here he had reached the out- 
skirts of a new world ! He would not abuse the trust confided 
to him. From this moment no evil thought should sully his 
mind. 

If only the dead past would bury its dead — if only those pale 
ghosts that haunted him would fade in the bright sunlight of 
this new life — he would work as man had never worked yet to 
prove that he had bitterly and sincerely repented of the evil he 
had done. 

' I, Ruth, take thee, Edward, to my wedded husband, to have 
and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for 
richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and 
to obey, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance ; 
and thereto I give thee my troth.' 



244 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

The prize was won, the golden badge of ownership glistened 
on the trembling hand of the beautiful bride, and the voice of 
the Church called down God's blessing on the union. 

Ruth shed just one tear ; but it was a tear of happiness — a 
tear coming from a heart overflowing with love and gratitude. 
And as it fell upon the hand that lay trembling in Mar- 
ston's, he stooped and kissed it away. Ah, me ! if every 
tear that those sweet eyes are to shed could only be as lightly 
banished ! 

Of course Mrs. Adrian cried ; and Gertie, who was brave in 
her beautiful new dress for the occasion, and who was very 
much overawed by the proceedings, cried a little, too. She 
didn't know why. She saw Mrs. Adrian weep, and she saw 
Ruth's lips tremble, and, being of a sympathetic nature and 
easily moved, she cried just to keep them company, though all 
the time she was thinking how beautiful and how good Ruth 
was, and wishing Lion could have been there to see what had 
come of the Little Queer Street lessons after all. 

Lion was not forgotten in the general joy. He was the first 
to meet the bridal party on their return. He came to the door 
with a huge white satin bow on, and he wagged his tail in a 
congratulatory and highly complimentary manner. But he 
made a sad mess of it after all, for he leaped upon Gertie and 
put his great paws on her beautiful dress, whereupon he was 
severely lectured, and afterwards kissed and hugged, and pro- 
mised a piece of wedding-cake if he was good. 

Mr. and Mrs. Marston were going to Paris to spend their 
honeymoon, and they were going down to Dover by an after- 
noon train. Ruth had named Paris as the place she would like 
to see, and of course she had chosen the short sea route. 

All had been arranged for the new housekeeping. Mr. 
Adrian's effects would be sold off during their absence, and then 
the old couple would move into the new house, and greet the 
young couple there on their return. 

Marston would have given anything rather than have been 
compelled to travel that route on his wedding-day. But he had 
left the choice to Ruth, and he would not oppose her first wish. 
He would not allow his past to step in and create difficulties 
already. 

As the train rushed down to the sea with them, the scene of 
the gold robbery came back vividly to his mind. 

Something on the journey brought it to Ruth's mind, and she 
spoke of it to Marston. Little did she dream how every word 
stabbed her husband like a knife. 

She spoke first of the marvellous way in which the crime had 
been effected, for she had read the graphic newspaper accounts. 
She wondered what the thieves would do with so large a sum, 
and how they had managed to escape detection. 

1 But it will bring them no good !' she said. ' I always pity 



EXIT EDWARD MARSTON. 245 

the men who commit these tenable crimes. What peace can 
they know — what happiness have they ever known ?' 

Marston's face flushed, and he complained of the heat, and 
lowered the window. 

As he did so the train was stopping at a station. 

The afternoon papers were out, and the contents sheets were 
posted against the bookstalls. 

One of the lines caught Marston's eye, and he closed the win- 
dow as though he had been shot, and sat back in the carriage 
trembling violently. 

This was the line : — ' The great Gold Robbery — A Clue to the 
Thieves,' 



CHAPTER LI. 

EXIT EDWARD MARSTON. 

Marston and Ruth were back from their honeymoon. They 
had enjoyed a month of almost unclouded happiness. The only 
trouble Ruth had was the discovery she had made that her hus- 
band was subject to occasional fits of despondency and abstrac- 
tion. 

Sometimes she would speak to him and he would not answer 
her. His thoughts were far away. She asked him, half-banter- 
ingly, once if he had anything very dreadful on his mind, that 
he looked so solemn. 

He flushed scarlet, and then laughed. 

' No, little woman,' he said ; ' I've got nothing on my mind, 
except the responsibility of being a married man.' 

He stopped all further questioning with a kiss, and exercised 
more control over himself in the future. He took care not to 
drop the mask again in his wife's presence. 

The line on the newspaper contents bills which had alarmed 
him so seriously on his wedding-day had been nothing after all. 
One of those rumours which are industriously circulated from 
time to time had been magnified into importance, and when he 
had the courage to read the paragraph he found that it was 
merely some drunken fellow who had gone to the police-station 
and pretended to be concerned in the affair. 

But although he had argued himself almost into a sense of 
security with regard to this special event, he was continually 
haunted by the idea that many of his old companions in guilt 
were still about, and that he might always be liable to awkward 
visits and rencontres. He had not gone under any alias. Ho 
was known as Edward Marston in the old days, and he was 
Edward Marston now. The name was tainted, but he must bear 
it still. If he were ever to become famous or take a position in 



246 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

society it must be as Edward Marston, and then He havdly 

liked to think what a constant temptation he would oiler to his 
unscrupulous acquaintances, if once he became a prominent 
person. It wasn't pleasant to think that they would always be 
able to find him out and trade upon their knowledge of the 
past. 

Mr. and Mrs. Adrian had welcomed the newly wedded pair 
to the new home, and a very pretty, comfortable home it was. 
The old couple had their own suite of apartments and their own 
servants, but Mrs. Adrian was not inclined to remain in her own 
territory. 

She still considered that she had conferred an immense favour 
on Marston in allowing him to live with them, and she took care 
that he should understand it. 

Ruth feared sometimes lest her mother's brusqacrie should 
annoy him, but it didn't in the least ; and when Mr. Adrian, 
painfully alive to Marston's generosity in the matter, suggested 
that perhaps, after all, the good lady ought to learn the secret of 
their misfortunes, Marston wouldn't hear of it. 

'Nonsense!' he said; 'it would break her heart. Let her 
enjoy herself here, and be mistress of everything if she likes. I 
don't think she would stop a moment if she knew the real reason 
of the change : it would wound her to the quick. 

Mr. Adrian and Ruth were very grateful to Marston for his 
forbearance, and the old gentleman was never tired of singing 
his praises. 

Lion and Gertie were as happy as the day was long in their 
new home, for there was a large garden where Gertie could 
watch the beautiful flowers, and a nice lawn on which the dog- 
would roll over and over in the sun like a young donkey at 
play. 

In fact everyone m the house was happy except the owner. 
He began to dread his own thoughts now. The new ties and 
the home life only served the more vividly to remind him of 
what his loss would be if the prophecy of the clergyman came 
true, and his sin found him out. 

He had always intended to invest his capital in some business 
and employ his leisure and his talents in developing it. lie 
wanted something to do more than ever now, and he set about 
to find a good opening. He perused the papers daily for partners 
wanted and businesses to be sold, and he put an advertisement 
in himself. 

His advertisement : ' A gentleman with capital would be glad 
to hear of a partnership in a going concern, or a business for 
sale,' brought him hosts of answers. Several of them were of 
the usual description, and not worth troubling about. One, 
however, attracted his attention on account of its absurdity. 
The writer was anxious to meet with a gentleman of capital, as 
he had an idea which only needed capital to develop. This idea 



EXIT EDWARD MARSTON. 247 

was to start an office and have a trained staff for the recovery 
of all offered rewards. The writer pointed out that in every 
day's paper there were several hundreds of pounds offered for 
the recovery of lost or stolen property, for the detection of 
criminals, and for the addresses of missing friends. His letter 
concluded by pointing out an instance of a large reward still to 
be bad, which, he was sure, with a little trouble and some outlay, 
might be gained. He alluded to the thousand-pound reward 
offered by the railway company for the discovery of the gold- 
robbers. No confederate dare come forward, he explained, but 
a couple of hundred pounds might induce a confederate to give 
a clue to private individuals which he dare not impart to the 
authorities. 

Marston flung the letter from him with an expression of rage. 
Was this wretched business, which he would give the world to 
forget, always to be flaunted before his eyes in some form or 
other ? 

He had just risen from perusing his answers when the servant 
informed him that a gentleman wished to see him on most par- 
ticular business. 

' What is the gentleman like ?' he asked, half fearing that his 
persecution had commenced. 

The servant described him. 

It was no one that Marston knew. 

' Show him into the library,' he said. ' I'll come directly.' 

It was not without some slight misgiving that Marston went 
to see his visitor. 

He had always an undefined dread of something unpleasant. 

The gentleman in the library was an ordinary individual with 
a professional cut about his clothes. 

He rose as Mr. Marston entered, and bowed politely. 

' Mr. Edward Marston, I presume ?' 

Marston nodded, and motioned his visitor to resume his 
seat. 

' I come on professional business, sir. I am one of the firm of 
Doddle and Co., solicitors. The senior partner is from town, or 
he would have called upon you himself. We ascertained that 
Miss Ruth Adrian was no longer Miss Ruth Adrian (a pro- 
fessional smile), and— ah — we thought, perhaps, under the 
peculiar circumstances we had better call ourselves and see 
you.' 

What did the man mean ? What could solicitors have to do 
with Ruth and himself ?' 

'You see,' continued the gentleman, 'a very large sum of 
money is concerned.' 

' Pray explain, sir,' faltered Marston. * I really don't under- 
stand you yet.' 

' Well, do you remember a daring burglary tome time ago at 
the residence of Squire Heritage ?' 



248 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Burglary— burglary !' gasped Marston. ' No ; what should I 
know about burglaries ?' 

' Of course not, my dear sir— of course not ; but you might 
have read about it in tbe papers. Great sensation! — son sus- 
pected ! — dreadful affair — dreadful !' 

Marston remembered his own share in the subsequent fate of 
George Heritage. Was this coming home to him too ? 

' Well,' continued the solicitor, the father didn't recover from 
the shock. He got worse and worse, and at last he was quite 
childish. Poor old gentleman !— poor old gentleman !' 

' I am very sorry, of course !' exclaimed Marston ; ' but, upon 
my word, I can't see what it all has to do with me.' 

'It has everything to do with you, sir. You are very closely 
concerned in the old gentleman's death.' 

'What!' 

Marston leapt from his chair as though he had been shot. 
The professional gentleman was astonished, but he didn't show 
it. Professional gentlemen never do. 

' Yes, my dear sir, you are indeed concerned in his death, but 
pleasantly ' (rubbing his hands) — ' very pleasantly indeed. By a 
will dated some time previous to the painful affair the whole 
of his property is left to a lady, the daughter of Mr. John 
Adrian.' 

Marston could hardly believe his ears. ' Euth an hekess !' he 
exclaimed. ' I really don't understand. I never knew that she 
was even acquainted with Squire Heritage.' 

' That, sir, I know nothing about. My visit this morning is 
simply to make your acquaintance and ask you to make an 
appointment with us, when we can have the pleasure of seeing 
Mrs. Marston and yourself at our office, where all the papers are, 
and where the whole matter can be laid properly before you.' 

On the following day, at the office of Messrs. Doddle and Co., 
Ruth learned how she had inherited a fortune, and how there 
was an extraordinary proviso in the will that she and her hus- 
band would have to adopt the name of Heritage. 

When the first surprise was over, and Ruth recognised the 
fact that she was an heiress, she whispered to her husband : 

' Oh, Ned ! You see I shan't be Euth Marston for long, after 
all.' 

And he, without answering her, clasped her hand in his. His 
heart was too full for him to speak. Here, at last, was an 
escape from that he dreaded most. He need be Edward Marston 
no longer. 

Lord of a splendid estate, and taking his place as a prosperous 
country gentleman, he would be completely isolated from the 
bitter past. 

Who would recognize in Edward Heritage, Esq., of Heritage 
Hall, the penniless adventurer who met Dr. Birnie in Little 
Queer Street, started the eminent firm of Smith and Co., and 



EXIT EDWARD MARSTON. 249 

was once the leading spirit in a desperate £&ng of rogues ar.d 
vagabands ? 



Entr'acte. 

Five years have to pass by ere we meet the characters in this 
story again. Five years, with their many changes and strange 
vicissitudes. Old Time rolls on like a river, that flows, heedless 
of what it bears on its bosom, to the great sea — heedless of the 
wreckage that strews its banks — heedless of all that lies lost in 
the depths of its weed-tangled bed. Old Time rolls on, and 
bears its human freight nearer and nearer to the last haven. 

They are a strange and motley group, whose ends destiny 
shapes during the years that elapse ere the curtain rises again on 
the little life drama that you and I, gentle reader, are waiting to 
see played out. In one of Her Majesty's prisons a young man — 
a felon, with the bearing of a gentleman and the garb of a con- 
vict — counts the years as they go by and wonders what justice 
there can be in heaven that a cruel fate should raise this bar of 
shame between him and the young wife he loves. Up in the 
great city a woman toils wearily night and day, for a scant wage, 
to keep the wolf at bay, toiling for bare subsistence, and weeping- 
over her work, when she thinks of the past that was happy, and 
of the fearful blow that dashed the cup of joy from her lips for 
ever. Only in her sleep sometimes she looks up, and. the 
skies are bright, and a loving arm encircles her waist, and a 
musical voice whispers in her ear. ' Bess, my darling, 'tis I — 
George !' 

Out in Australia a burly grey-haired man keeps a low drink 
store, and upholds the reputation of the old country for 
thoroughpaced blackguardism. ' Bully Heckett ' his customers 
call him, and his customers are as nice and select a lot as he 
could possibly wish to have, and they find him remarkably useful 
in more ways than one. He talks about going back to England 
' some day,' and his customers say, ' When the coast's a bit 
clearer, eh, Bully ?' and laugh. 

Among the Surrey hills there is a beautiful mansion, and there 
the new Squire Heritage and his lady pass their days in peace 
and contentment. Nothing has come to mar their happiness. 
Ruth's greatest trouble was the death of her father. He died 
thanking God that his Ruth had found so good a husband and 
his old wife so kind and gentle a son. No children have blessed 
the union yet, but there is a young lady who lives with them, 
and who is their adopted daughter. And there isn't a prettier 
little lady for miles round, or one more beloved by the people 
on the estate and the villagers than ' Miss Gertie up at the hall,' 
as they call her. Gertie and Ruth, attended by a faithful 



250 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

mastiff dog, -who follows closely at their heels, and is almost as 
great a favourite as Gertie, are to be seen out on all the fine 
days, going hither and thither among the people and spreading 
happiness wherever their two kind faces are seen. 

The squire does not go about so much, but he gives liberally 
to charities, never lets a poor man on his estate want when 
times are hard, and has the reputation of being a kindly Chris- 
tian gentleman, rather grave and studious, and not fond of too 
much society. He goes out occasionally though to the best 
houses, gives a dinner party or two, and now and then there is a 
ball at the hall, He is a justice of the peace, goes to the parish 
church and idolizes the ground his wife treads upon. 

The firm of Grigg and Limpett flourishes, though it has lost 
the services of Mr. Jabez Duck. The firm receives from time 
to time letters from its absent client, Mr. Gurth Egerton, who 
seems inclined to settle in America, and whose house is now oc- 
cupied by Dr. Oliver Birnie, whose brass plate is very large, 
and whose practice has increased wonderfully with a West-End 
address. 

There is no Mrs. Turvey. She has become Mrs. Duck, and 
she and Jabez have a lodging-house, and take in and do for 
single gentlemen. 

Miss Georgina, having raised a little capital through the kind- 
ness of her friend, Miss Jackson, has taken the house exactly 
opposite to them, and started an opposition establishment. Miss 
Duck's lodgers and Mrs. Duck's lodgers each support the lady 
under whose banner they pay their rent, and the amenities 
exchanged across the street are frequently highly edifying to the 
neighbourhood. Jabez has been disappointed. Having married 
his lady in the firm belief that he was marrying a snug thousand 
pounds, he was bitterly disillusioned a few days after the fatal 
knot had been tied. The money he has never discovered, and 
Mrs. Turvey stoutly denies that it was hers. 

This is at once the mystery and the misfortune of Mr. Duck's 
married life. He has ether mysteries and misfortunes to attend 
to, for he has left the law and entered the service of a private 
inquiry agent. His taste he determined to gratify : if he 
couldn't be a principal, he would be an employe. He likes it 
better than the law, and he is getting quite clever at poking his 
nose into other people's business. His talents always lay in 
that direction. 

Mr. Preene still flourishes and pursues the even tenor of his 
way, but Mr. Brooks has paid the debt of nature, dying respect- 
ably in his bed, and leaving his widow a nice little competency. 
She was shortly afterwards united to a middle-aged and very 
hard-up Scripture-reader, who fell in love with her while reading 
the prayers for the sick by the bedside of her first husband at 
Mrs. Brooks's special request. Perhaps the people who assisted 
to make Mrs, Brooks independent would have been resigned to 



AN ESCAPED CONVICT. 251 

their loss had they known it would ultimately benefit so devout 
a man. 

So time works its changes, alters the scene, redresses the 
characters, and clears the stage during the five years entr'acte that 
elapses ere our curtain rises again. 



CHAPTER LIT. 

AN ESCAPED CONVICT. 

' Hulloh !' said Mr. Jarvis ; ' did you hear that gun ? There's 
another of them there conwicks escaped.' 

' Poor fellow !' ejaculated Mr. Jarvis's better half ; ' and I 
hope as he'll get away.' 

Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis were the proprietors of a travelling 
theatrical show, and this conversation occurred late one winter 
afternoon, as the caravan jolted along over the rough roads of 
Dartmoor. 

Mr. Jarvis's ' temple of the drama,' packed up very small, and 
the whole affair was very comfortably accommodated in two 
living-vans and a baggage- waggon. 

Mrs. Jarvis was sitting inside the first van with the door open, 
and Mr. Jarvis was walking behind, to keep himself warm and 
to enjoy his afternoon pipe. The company had been dissolved 
at the last town, for the season was over, and the Jarvises were 
making their way as fast as they could to London, to complete 
their arrangements for a metropolitan circuit, with a new drama 
and a specially organized company. 

Their last tour had not been a great success. The attendance 
at the country fairs had fallen off, and in small places where 
they had built the theatre up and stayed for a week, they had 
hardly cleared expenses. The new fashion of the London com- 
panies touring, combined with the number of first-class theatres 
rapidly rising in the provincial towns, was slowly but suiely 
dealing a death-blow to the ' booth ' business. 

To add to the misfortunes of the worthy couple, their only 
son, Shakspeare, the most valuable member of the company, had 
been down with a wasting fever, and was so ill when they left 
town that he was unable to be brought v/ith them. 

' Ah !' Mrs. Jarvis would exclaim, with a sigh, when she 
counted the takings after each performance, ' there ain't no luck 
about the show without Shakspeare — Shakspeare alius was the 
draw, father, and we shan't do no good without him.' 

' Poor chap !' answered Mr. Jarvis. ' I 'ope as he's a-goin' 011 
all right. It don't seem like the old show without him— do it, 
mother ?' 



•^D- 



ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 



' No, i t don't. And what we should ha' done if we hadn't 
ha' had sich a lodger as Mrs. Smith to leave to look arter him I 
don't know ! He writes as she's been like a mother to him, and 
imssed him till he can almost stand on his 'ed as easy as ever, 
and he's turned his fust caterine wheel last Saturday, and 'as 
been better ever since.' 

' He's a beautiful scholard, ain't he ?' said Mr. Jarvis, as he 
took Shakspeare's letter from his wife, and looked at it reverently. 
' With the eddication he's got he'll do something for the dramar 
some day, as '11 astonish the purf ession. Hulloh, there's the gun 
again ! Why, they're coming this way !' 

As Mr. Jarvis spoke a body of men came running along, 
peering into the hedges, and looking on every side of them. 

The fog was deepening as the darkness came on, and the snow 
lay thick on road and hedge and tree, so that it was no easy 
matter to distinguish anything at a distance. 

As the men came up with the caravan they stopped, and the 
leader, an armed warder, addressed Mr. Jarvis. 

' Seen anybody go by here, governor ?' 

'What, one of your gents ?' answered Mr. Jarvis. 'No, that 
I ain't. There ain't ne'er a one passed here.' 

The officer hesitated. 

' Perhaps you wouldn't mind letting us look inside,' he said 
presently. 

' Look, and welcome, master ! answered Mrs. Jarvis. Then, 
bridling up, she added, ' A pretty fine thing, indeed ! What d'ye 
think we should want a-harbourin' conwicks for ?' 

The officer, without vouchsafing a reply, searched the two 
living- vans thoroughly, and then, satisfied that his prey was not 
in them, apologized, and held a council of war among his fol- 
lowers. 

If the convict had not passed the caravan he could not be on 
that road. The man who had informed him he had seen a 
convict running that way must have been mistaken. The snow 
was so hard and crisp on the roadway that no footsteps were 
visible. It would be better to turn back and try in another 
direction. 

The warder and his party returned, and the caravan went 
jolting on its way. 

Hardly had the pursuers disappeared in the mist, when Mrs. 
Jarvis's attention was attracted to the baggage-waggon in the 
rear. The tarpaulin flung over it was moving. 

This waggon was unoccupied, the horse following mechanically 
the vehicles ahead of him. 

Mr. Jarvis, attracted by his wife's exclamation, looked, and he 
loo distinctly saw the tarpaulin move. 

He stood still in the roadway till the horse came up to him, 
and stopped it. 

As he did so he distinctly heard a low groan. 



A A' ESCAPED CONVICT 2^3 

' Now then, governor !' he exclaimed, ' whoever you are, come 
out o' that.' 

No answer, only a groan deeper than before. 

The two living-vans had turned a sharp corner of the road by 
this time, and there was no one in sight. 

Mr. Jarvis climbed up on to the waggon and pulled the tar- 
paulin back. 

As he did so he uttered an exclamation of astonishment. 

There lay the escaped convict, his face deadly pale, his eyes 
half shut, and his hands clenched. 

Mr. Jarvis shook him. 

' Here, master, this won't do. Come, you must get out of this. 
We can't have no gaol-birds here.' 

The man opened his eyes. 

' Oh, sir, for God's sake help me !' he exclaimed. ' Don't give 
me up ! — don't give me up !' 

' I don't want to give you up ; but I can't harbour ye, ye 
know — it's a crime.' 

' Let me lie here, then, till I can walk !' exclaimed the man. 
' In dodging behind the hedges I slipped and twisted my ankle. 
I managed to crawl into the waggon and hide among these 
things, or I should have been caught.' 

'And I've been and turned the officers back, and declared as 
I hadn't seen ye !' exclaimed Mr. Jarvis, looking very uncom- 
fortable. 

'Hear me!' exclaimed the man, raising himself on his arm 
with difficulty, for the pain from his twisted ankle was excru- 
ciating. ' Hear my story, and then do with me as you will. I'm 
an escaped convict, but I am innocent of the crime I was con- 
demned for. My time had nearly expired — in a few weeks more 
I should have been out on a ticket of leave. Unfortunately I 
incurred the hatred of one of the warders. I refused to help 
him in a dishonest act. He never forgave me. Twice he found 
tobacco in my cell. He put it there/ For the second offence I 
lost all my privileges. I was not allowed to write to my wife 
or to hear from her for nine months, and I lost my chance of a 
ticket.' 

'Poor devil !' said Mr. Jarvis. 

' I was maddened with rage. Up in London my wife lay ill, 
perhaps dying — for her last letter was written in a hand that 
told its own weakness, though she spoke hopefully. I had 
counted the days till I should see her again — and now, oh ! sir, 
can you blame me if when I saw at last a chance of escape I 
seized it ? That chance came to-day. I escaped from the guard 
who were marching us to some outdoor work, and you know the 
rest. I am here at your mercy ; but for God's sake save me ! 
Think of my poor wife ! Think ' 

The man spoke no more. 

In his excitement he had moved too hastily and hurt the 



254 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

twisted ankle ; the anguish was so great that he fainted dead 
away. 

o s * » <,% 

' There, there, my poor fellow !— don't you fidget. You lie 
still. We'll carry you safe to London, or my name is not Lizer 
Jarvis.' 

The speaker was Mrs. Jarvis, and the person addressed was 
the escaped convict. 

Mr. Jarvis had consulted his better half before deciding what to 
do, and when she had heard the story, the good soul's motherly 
heart went out to the poor man, and she determined he should 
not be given up. 

So the baggage-waggon was brought up close to the living-van, 
and the poor fellow was lifted carefully out and put up snugly in 
a corner and covered over with a rug, and Mrs. Jarvis, who was 
clever at sprains and bruises, soon found out what was the 
matter with his ankle, and bound it up with cold-water bandages. 

'Now, all you've got to do is to keep still,' she said, 'and lie 
close, and we'll get up to our crib in London, and there we can 
rig you out, and then you must look out for yourself.' 

And that night, as the vans went jolting along the road, the 
convict slept calmly, a free man for the first time for six long 
years, and he dreamed that his wife was sitting by his side. 

"When they halted for the night the horses were taken out. 
The convict awoke with a start. 

' Where am I, Bess ? ' he exclaimed. 

' You're all right,' answered Mrs. Jarvis cheerily. ' You stop 
where you are. Nobody won't interfere with you.' 

' So his wife's name's Bess, is it ? ' thought the good lady to 
herself. ' It's a purty name. It's the name o' our lodger, Mrs. 
Smith, as has been so good to Shakspeare. Lor', how I do long 
to give that there boy a good motherly hug — bless him !' 

Then she walked across to the snug corner where the convict 
lay. 

1 Poor chap !' she muttered ; ' I hope he'll find his wife alive. 
He don't look a bit like a convict, and I believe as he's quite as 
hinnercent as he makes out. if faces goes for anything, I 
should say he was a born gentleman,' 



SHAKSPEARES NURSE. 255 

CHAPTER LIII. 

hii.vkspeare's nurse. 

In a little back room in a street running off the Lambeth Road, 
a lad of about sixteen lay on the sofa, wheeled near the window 
so that he might see out into the street. 

By his side, busily plying her needle and thread, sat a young 
woman whose thin hands and haggard cheeks told their own 
story of mental torture and bodily suffering. 

She was very poor — you could tell that by her well-worn 
dress and the nature of her occupation. A woman must be poor 
indeed who sews linen for a livelihood in our great city. She 
was married, if the wedding-ring on her finger spoke the truth, 
and she called herself Mrs. Smith. Presently she lifted her face 
from the work and looked across to the sofa. 

' Well, Shakspeare,' she said, ' do you feel warmer now ?' 
' Yes, thank you, Mrs. Smith,' answered the lad ; ' I'm all 
right now. It makes me warm to see the folks a-movin' about. 
Lor, shan't I be glad when I can go out ! Do you think it 'ud 
hurt me if I wrapped up ?' 

' You mustn't go out, the doctor says, not when the wind's in 
the east.' 

' Ah, I have been bad, ain't I ? — reg'lar bad. Do you know, 
Mrs. Smith, I believe if you hadn't nussed me I should o' been 
a-turnin' up my toes to the daisies now. Granny's a good raul, 
but she ain't in the hunt with you at nussin'. 

'Poor old lady,' said Mrs. Smith, 'she's wanted nursing her- 
self ; but we've got you all right between us, Shakspeare, and 
when your mother comes back she'll find her boy nearly himself 
again.' 

' Poor mother — ain't she just fond of me !' exclaimed Master 
Shakspeare Jarvis, drawing a letter from his pocket. ' Here's 
the last letter as the leadin' tragedian wrote for her to say aa 
they was on the road home. Why, she might be here any time 
now, Mrs. Smith. It's the first tower as they've bin without 
me ever since I can remember, and I hope it 'ull be the last.' 

' Never mind,' said Mrs. Smith, with a smile ; ' you haven't 
been idle ; there's the new drama.' 

'Ah !' exclaimed the lad, his pale face flushing, ' I think I've 
done it this time. There's a part for mother as 'ull suit her 
prime, and my part's tiptop. Shall I give you a scene now ?' 
' No, you must not excite yourself.' 

' I know what I shall do,' answered Master Shakspeare ; ' I 
shall get mother and father to call a rehearsal here afore we 
start on the tower, and then you shall see it. I should like you 
to see it. I've called the lady in it Bess, after you.' 



2$6 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS, 

Mrs. Smith sighed. It was many a long day since anyone 
had called her Bess. Young Jarvis had found out that it was 
her name quite by accident. 

Mrs. Smith had come some time since to lodge in this little 
house in Lambeth. She took the top room and kept it to her- 
self, and the other lodgers, who were as curious as most lodgers 
are about their neighbours, could find out nothing about her 
except that she worked for one of the City houses, and was a 
married woman whose husband was never seen. 

But old Mrs. Jarvis, the landlady, finding her a quiet, nice 
young woman, always ready to sympathise with her rheumatics 
and other ailments, gradually made a friend and confidant of 
her, and Bess, when she could spare the time, was invited to 
come down into the little parlour and listen to her landlady's 
trials and tribulations. 

Thus it was that she learned the Jarvis's family history. She 
learned how Mr. Jarvis, the old lady's son, had a travelling 
theatrical show ; how he had invested a portion of his savings 
in house property, partly as a home for his old mother, and 
partly as a refuge for himself and family when in town, which 
wasn't often. By letting off a portion of the house, and leaving 
the old lady in charge, this arrangement became a profitable 
one, for the strolling players had ' a drum ' to come to between 
their tours where they could live rent free. 

Mrs. Smith had lived in the little top room for about six 
months when the Jarvises came home for a fortnight to re- 
organize their company and arrange for some novelties ; and 
then Shakspeare, the boy, fell ill — so ill that there was nothing 
to do but leave him at home with granny. 

Granny had her hands full with the lodgers and wanted cos- 
seting herself, so that when Mrs. Smith saw the poor boy, who 
was like a caged bird, and pined for the roving life, tossing on 
the bed of sickness, she sat by his side and comforted him, and 
did little womanly things for him, which helped him to bear his 
pain more patiently. 

At last he grew to look for her, to fret if she did not come 
and sit by him ; he would take his medicine from no one else ; 
and poor old granny's stock of patience was soon exhausted by 
what she called his ' whims and contrarinesses.' Then Mrs. 
Smith would be called in and would act as peacemaker, soothing 
the irritable boy and the irritated old lady at the same time. 

So it came about that at last she was regularly installed as 
• Shakspeare's nurse, and she would bring her work down into 
the room where he lay, and sit beside him for hours together. 
A firm friendship grew up between them. All that was best in 
the lad's Bohemian but honest nature blossomed in the sunshine 
of Bess's gentle care, and he looked upon her as a sort of angel 
— an angel who was deserving a much better fate than to be 
oppressed by some terrible grief, and to have to work for slop- 
houses in the City for her living. 



SHAKSPEARES NURSE. 257 

Shakspeare could write, and was what his mother called a 
' scholard ' ; and so from time to time, as he grew better, he had 
written her full, true, and particular accounts of his recovery, 
r.nd of the lady-lodger's kindness to him. 

Mrs. Jarvis's heart overflowed with motherly gratitude, for she 
idolized her Ijov ; but she was not ' scholard ' enough to let it 
trickle from her heart down her arm into a pen and on to paper ; 
and so from time to time she got the leading man (who had seen 
better days, and taught virtue in a national school before he took 
to delineating villainy on the boards) to write in reply to Shak- 
speare, and in every letter there was always a mother's blessing 
for Mrs. Smith, the kind lodger. 

Thus far had events progressed, and thus they stood on the 
day when this chapter opens, and we see Mrs. Smith at her work, 
and Shakspeare, who is still weak from his long illness, lying on 
the sofa. 

Mrs. Smith bends over her work and stitches away ; and after 
Shakspeare has read his mother's letter aloud, and then read it to 
himself, there is a short silence. 

Shakspeare folds the letter and puts it away carefully again. 

' You like reading letters over again and again, don't you ?' he 
says presently. 

Mrs. Smith starts. 

' Why, what do you mean ?' she says hesitatingly. 

' When I was ill and you thought I was asleep, I often used 
to see you take letters from your pocket and read them again 
and again. Were they from your husband, who is abroad ?' 

The question was put in innocent boyish curiosity, but Mrs. 
Smith flushed scarlet and turned her head away so that the lad 
might not notice her confusion. 

' Yes,' she answered, after a pause ; ' they were from my 
husband.' 

' When is he coming home ?' 

' I — I don't know. Soon, I hope,' stammered Mrs. Smith. 

' I hope I shall see him. I'm sure he must be a good fellow, 
or you wouldn't kiss his letters like you do.' 

Shakspeare Jarvis little knew the tender chord he had touched. 
Mrs. Smith bent over her work, and the tears trickled down her 
face. She was thinking of her absent husband. She had visited 
him from time to time as the regulations allowed, and the meet- 
ings had been painful to them both. She had cheered him and 
bidden him hope. One visiting-day she had been too ill to go, 
and had written, telling him ; the next she had gone — had gone 
at a time when the expense of her journey had crippled her — 
and had been told that she could not see him. Her husband had 
committed some offence against prison regulations, and his 
punishment was ' no' visitors, no letters.' Since then she had not 
heard from him and now she was getting anxious and nervous 

17 



258 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

again. Every day that passed and she received no news, she 
grew more and more distressed. She knew his impetuous nature, 
she had seen how terribly he had been tried by the prison disci- 
pline, and she dreaded to think what he might have done in a fit 
of rage or despair. 

She believed him innocent. He had told her all — all that he 
knew, and she believed him. He was still her noble, handsome 
George. It was all a vile plot against him ; but what could she, 
a poor, weak, destitute woman, do to prove it ? 

After her father's death, thrown entirely upon her own re- 
sources, she had determined to live — to live on and toil and 
struggle, trusting that some day, when the cruel prison-gates 
rolled back, George might not be alone in the world, but 
might have at least one faithful, loving heart to look to for 
support when he began the terrible struggle which would lie 
before him. 

Shakspeare Jarvis noticed the tears as they fell streaming on 
the work, and he was wise enough to turn and look out of the 
window and hum a tune, just as if he hadn't the slightest idea 
what Mrs. Smith was doing. 

He hadn't looked out of window a minute before he uttered 
a little cry of surprise and joy. 

A cab had drawn up to the door with four heavy boxes on the 
roof. 

' Oh, Mrs. Smith,' cried the lad, half beside himself, ' here they 
are !' 

' Who ?' 

' Why, mother and father. Hullo ! they've got a gentleman 
with them. Perhaps he's the new tragedian. Lor ! ain't he 
popped into the house quick !' 

Mrs. Smith rose and folded her work up. 

' I'm going to my own room, Shakspeare dear,' she said ; ' I'll 
come and see your mother presently.' 

Bess ran out before Shakspeare could reply. She didn't want 
strangers to come in and see her red eyes. 

Hardly had she beat a retreat before Mrs. Jarvis, having duly 
embraced granny below, came panting up the stairs, making them 
creak and tremble, and, pushing open the door, she had Shak- 
speare clasped in her motherly arms, squeezing him so vigorously 
that his ' God bless you, mother !' came out in spasmodic jerks, 
a syllable at a time. 

Then there was father to shake hands with, and then Shak- 
speare, looking up, saw a young man, with a shaved face and 
a curious, frightened look on it, standing at the doorway. 
He had on a long overcoat that Shakspeare knew was his 
father's, and when he, with instinctive politeness, took his hat 
off, Shakspeare's quick eye noticed that his hair was closely 
cropped. 

Mrs. Jarvis noticed the look. 



SHAKSPEARE 'S NURSE. 259 

' This is a friend of ours, Shakspeare, my boy, that we met on 
the road. He's going to lodge with us for a bit.' 

1 How do you do, sir ?' said Shakspeare, holding out his 
hand. 

The man took the proffered hand and shook it gently, as if 
he were ashamed or afraid of it. Shakspeare couldn't make him 
out at all. 

' Where's the guardjen hangel V asked Mrs. Jarvis, looking 
round. ' I must thank her for all she's done for the boy.' 

' She's gone upstairs, mother. She would go.' 

' We'll have her down,' cried Mrs. Jarvis, in her quick, impetu- 
ous way ; but before she could move to call up the stairs, there 
was a gentle knock at the door. 

' I beg your pardon, I left some of my work,' said Mrs. Smith. 
'I 

' GEORGE !' 

'BESS!' 

In a moment, with a wild cry of mutual recognition, the 
strange gentleman and Mrs. Smith were locked in each other's 
arms, while the Jarvis family looked on in blank astonish- 
ment. 

' Which I'm blest !' exclaimed Mrs. Jarvis, a little later, when 
the situation was explained to her, ' if it don't beat all the scenes 
in all the drainers as ever was writ ! Well I never !' 



CHAPTER LIV 

AT HERITAGE HALL, 

Mi:, and Mrs. Edward Heritage and Miss Gertie were at 
breakfast. 

The post-bag had just come in, and Ruth and Gertie were 
porting the letters. 

'Fourteen for you, Edward dear, this morning,' said Ruth, 
with a smile ; ' one for mamma, and four for me.' 

Mrs. Heritage opened her letters, which were of no import- 
ance, and the master of the establishment — the squire, as he was 
now called in the neighbourhood — put his by the side of his 
plate. 

It was a peculiarity of his never to open his letters until he was 
alone in his study. Ruth had once asked him the reason, saying 
jestingly that she was always so anxious to know what was in 
hers that she could not wait a minute. 

Her husband parried the question, and turned it off with a 
little joke, and Ruth had at last got accustomed to the habit. 
It was not his only peculiarity. One — and one which some- 

17— 'J 



260 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

times distressed his wife very much — was a habit of sitting 
for hours without saying a word, heedless of all that was passing 
around him, his thoughts far away in some dreamland of his 
own. 

Sometimes, after sitting for a couple of hours in one of these 
fits of abstraction, he would order his horse to be saddled, and 
ride away, not returning, perhaps, until night. 

He told his wife that these attacks were constitutional, that 
he had been liable to these fits of depression all his life, and 
that the only thing which relieved them was long and violent 
exercise. 

At last ' the squire's fits ' became proverbial in the neighbour- 
hood, and when the villagers or any of the folks round about met 
Marston galloping along the lanes at a furious pace, bis face pale 
and determined, and his long hair flying in the wind, they knew 
what it meant. Old Matthews, the village tailor, and the gossip 
of the place, declared that the squire always rode as if he was 
pursued by a demon — and old Matthews was right. 

Edward Heritage galloped across the country to escape from 
a demon who was relentless in pursuit — the demon of the 
past. 

Everything had prospered with him from the day Ruth became 
his wife. He was respected by his tenantry, well received by his 
neighbours, and thoroughly happy in his home-life. Euth had 
been all that a woman could be to him, and he thanked God 
every day for the blessing of her love. 

But amidst every outward appearance of happiness there was 
a canker preying upon his heart. Do what he would, the 
memories of the past would crowd upon him, and bring fears for 
the future. 

The more he became accustomed to the new existence, the 
greater grew his terror lest any ghost of the old life should 
wander into the charmed circle. 

To all the world he was Squire Heritage ; to himself he was 
Edward Marston. People saw in him a benevolent country 
gentleman, devoted to his wife and his young ward ; he saw in 
himself an undiscovered forger and thief, a criminal hiding 
from justice. His loving wife was a woman he had dragged in to 
a shameful alliance, and was one sin the more upon his con- 
science. His ward was the grand-daughter of an accomplice, a 
man in whose keeping lay his honour and his life. When at the 
county sessions he took his seat upon the bench, he trembled 
lest among the malefactors in the dock there might be some 
who had know him in the old days. 

But there was not much chance of his being recognised. The 
change of name was a great safeguard, and added to that was 
the fact that his appearance had changed too. He had aged very 
rapidly since his marriage. He wore his hair long, and allowed 
his beard and whiskers to grow freely. These were tinged 



A T HE RITA GE HALL. 26 1 

already with grey, and altogether the change was so complete, 
not only of surroundings but of appearance, that none but those 
who had known him intimately and who were searching for him 
would probably have recognised him. 

After breakfast on the morning when we renew our acquaint- 
ance with Edward, Ruth, and Gertie, the two ladies went up 
to old Mrs. Adrian's room, and left the gentleman alone. 

Mrs. Adrian had broken rapidly after her husband's death, and 
was now unable to leave her room. 

Ruth, like a loving daughter, endeavoured to make her mother 
feel her loss as little as possible, and always that portion of the 
morning which her husband spent in his study she and Gertie 
would pass with the old lady. 

They read to her, chatted with her, brought her all the news 
and all the village gossip they thought she would care to hear, 
and sometimes, as an extra treat, contradicted her, just to give 
her an opportunity of exercising her old privilege of scolding 
them. 

When Ruth and Gertie had gone upstairs, the squire picked 
up his letters and carried them into his study. 

He looked at the superscriptions carefully, and tossed some 
of them aside. They were either circulars or bills, and not of 
pressing importance. But one envelope he looked at long and 
anxiously before he opened it. 
He knew the handwriting. 
It was that of Seth Preene. 

Preene was the only one of the gang he had once been con- 
nected with who still enjoyed his confidence. Preene was 
necessary to him, and could be trusted. He paid him liberally 
for his services. But why should Preene write to him ? He 
had strict orders not to do so unless it was of the first necessity. 
He received his allowance regularly through Mr. Heritage's 
London solicitors, and it was understood that there was to be no 
direct communication unless something happened which rendered 
it necessary. 

What had happened ? 

The squire — for so we are bound to call him, as he is Edward 
Marston no longer — turned the envelope about nervously. He 
dreaded to open it. Was it possible that at last the blow was 
about to fall ? What he dreaded was the necessity for action. 
He would do anything rather than that the structure he had 
raised with so much labour should be pulled about his ears, but 
he feared the necessity for any active steps arising. 

He was tired of crime — he had washed his hands of it forever; 
but rather than his sins should come to light and shame fall upon 
his dear ones, he knew there was no desperate deed he would 
not commit. 

He dreaded to find himself at bay. He hoped that the past 
was so securely buried that he would need to fling no fresh earth 



262 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

over it, and here was a letter from Seth Preene. What could it 
be about save the past ? 

Nerving himself with an effort, he opened the envelope and 
read the letter at a glance. 

It fell from his hands, and he rose from his chair and paced 
the room. 

' Curse him !' he muttered. ' Why couldn't he stay where he 
was ? Have I not suffered enough already, that this scoundrel 
must turn up to be the terror of my life ? — now, now, when at 
last I had begun to feel secure.' 

He picked up the letter and read it carefully again : 

' Dear Sir, 

' Heckett is back. From what I have discovered he means 
mischief. I ought to see you at once.' 

' How dared he come back ?' exclaimed the squire angrily. 
' He cannot have found out the trick played upon him. What 
does Preene mean by " he means mischief " ? What has he dis- 
covered V Ah ! I must see Preene at once. I wouldn't have an 
unknown danger hanging over my head now for worlds. It 
would kill me.' 

The squire sat moodily in his chair and gazed across the broad 
acres that were his. He would have given them all to be free 
at this moment from the dread which had once again taken pos- 
session of his breast. 

' Poor Ruth !' he murmured ; ' if she only knew what a miser- 
able, wretch I am ! How I play an odious comedy every time I 
smile ! I must see Preene and know the worst.' 

He sat down to his desk and commenced a letter, bidding 
Preene come down ; but before it was finished he tore it up and 
flung it into the fire. 

' Better not,' he muttered ; 'this place has never been polluted 
yet by any of the gang except myself. I'll keep it pure as long 
as I can.' 

Then he wrote a fresh note. It was to the effect that he would 
be in town at a certain time on the morrow and Preene was to 
meet him. 

He signed it with his old initials, E. M., and, having directed 
it in a running hand utterly unlike his own, he went out and 
posted it in the village himself. 

He felt inexpressibly mean and guilty and miserable. As he 
walked home he fell into one of his fits of depression. He 
anticipated the worst. There was an end to his fool's paradise 
at last. On the morrow he would have to be scheming, and 
might, for all he knew, be drawn into the old vortex again. His 
only safety from the past might lie in a fresh crime. 

Gertie was standing in the garden near the front entrance as 
he came up the path. She noticed his black look and shrank 



AT HERITAGE HALL. 263 

aside. He went straight through the house and shut himself in 
bis study. He was busy all the morning with some papers which 
he took from a drawer that he always kept locked. 

Ruth saw nothing of him till evening, when they sat down to 
dinner. Gertie had told her that he had one of his ' fits ' on him, 
and Ruth, like a sensible little woman, thought discretion was the 
better part of valour, and did not go and worry him. 

At dinner he scarcely spoke, and Ruth and Gertie had the con- 
versation to themselves. When the servants were out of the 
room, Ruth, thinking to coax him out of his silence, laughingly 
offered him a penny for his thoughts, and, when he did not 
reply, raised her offer to twopence, and put the two coppers in 
front of him on the table. 

He pushed them angrily away, and in doing so his hand caught 
the wine-glass and dashed the contents all over the table-cloth. 

' Oh, Edward, how careless !' exclaimed Ruth. ' Why, what- 
ever'* put you out ?' 

' Nothing !' he answered snappishly. 

' Xonsense ! something has. Come, tell me. Why have a 
secret from me ? Was it anything in the letters this morning ?' 
Will you leave me alone ?' exclaimed her husband, clinching 
his hand, and striking it on the table. 
The tears came into Ruth's eyes. 

' Gertie dear,' she said, ' go up and sit with mamma a little, 
will you '?' 

Gertie took the hint and went out, her cheeks scarlet and her 
lip quivering. 

' Edward, what is the matter with you ?' Ruth then said. ' I 
never heard you speak like this before ! Are you mad '?' 

Xo, I'm just coming to my senses,' answered her husband, 
' ringing the bell violently. 
The servant entered. 
' Bring me the time-table.' 

The servant went into the study and brought the local time- 
table. The squire ran his finger down it. 

' There's a train to town at 0.30. Pack my portmanteau at 
once.' 

The servant withdrew, as much astonished at the idea of the 
master's abrupt departure as Ruth was. 

• Do you menu to say that vou are going to town to-night, 
Edward ?' she asked, scarcely believing her ears. 
Yes. I do.' 

' But you never said a word ; 

Madam, am I bound to consult you about my move -' 

He broke down suddenly. The sight of Ruth's grave face 
and the hot tears welling to her eyes was too much for him. 

Forgive me, my darling," he cried, clasping her to his breast 
and kissing her passionately. ' Ah, Ruth, Ruth ! it you only 
knew what I have suffered you would forgive me.' 



264 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' Tell me what it is, Edward,' sobbed Ruth. ' Let me bear 
your secret with you.' 

' I cannot,' he moaned. ' I am going to town now. When I 
return all may be well. In the meantime trust in me.' 

He kissed her passionately and went out of the room. Half- 
an-hour later he bade her adieu and drove to the station. 

He could not let the night go over. He was in a state of 
nervous excitement, and felt that he must get away from home 
at once, and see Preene there and then and know the worst. 

That night, for the first time since their marriage, Ruth and 
her husband were parted. That night, for the first time, she 
closed her eyes with a heavy heart, and felt that something had 
come between them. 

And up in London the squire sat with Seth Preene and heard 
his story, and then he knew that his dream was at an end ; that 
he must wander back into the old path of shame once more, and 
plot and plan again, putting his conscience behind him if he 
would not let his enemy triumph over him and drag him and her 
who bore his name to ruin and disgrace. 



CHAPTER LV 

THE AIU!E*T. 

It was late that afternoon, and the shades of evening were fall- 
ing rapidly on the little street, but the happy little party seated 
round the hospitable board in the front parlour seemed little in- 
clined to break up. 

Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis were honest-hearted genuine English 
folks, with hearts as big as their appetites, and they were as 
pleased to think they had reunited the convict and his wife as 
they would have been had royalty patronized their show at some 
country town. 

Besides, steeped as they were in the morality of the British 
peripatetic drama, it seemed to them that things were only in 
their right course. In the drama all escaped convicts are inno- 
cent, and in the drama it is always the duty of the ' first old 
woman ' to help the convict to find his sweetheart. And when 
that sweetheart turned out to be the kind lodger to whom her 
Shakspeare owed his life, no wonder Mrs. Jarvis declared that 
Providence had arranged it all with a keen eye to a 'situation ' 
and the triumph of persecuted virtue. 

Up in her own room Bess had cried and sobbed upon 
G-eorge's shoulder for a good hour, and then, when all the tears 
were shed, and the sacred joy of that strange meeting had 



THE ARREST 26$ 

been duly respected, Mrs. Jarvis came upstairs and insisted 
that they should come down and have dinner with them. It 
was a grand dinner indeed. Granny was sent out with a 
plentiful supply of coin, and returned from the cookshop with 
a famous dish of hot boiled beef and carrots and at least 
a dozen slices of ' spotted dog,' which were popped into the 
oven to keep hot while the beef and carrots were being dis- 
posed of. 

George and Bess had little heart to eat, for to this joy of 
their sudden meeting was added the bitter knowledge of the cir- 
cumstances which led to it. 

George had told Bess all ; how, maddened by his unjust treat- 
ment, fearing that she might be ill, perhaps dying, he had deter- 
mined to make a desperate effort to escape, and how when the 
opportunity presented itself he had seized it. 

Directly the first flush of joy was over Bess grew nervous. 
Every sound terrified her. She dreaded lest the police might 
suddenly appear upon the scene. It seemed so cruel that, now 
they were united after these long years of absence, George should 
still be a hunted felon, with a price upon his head. 

The old showman and his good wife saw how matters lay, and 
did their best to cheer them. Shakspeare and granny Avere not 
in the secret of the circumstances under which George had been 
found, and they could not understand the nervous little jumps 
which Bess kept giving when there was a knock next door, or 
the sound of a cab stopping in the street. George concealed his 
feelings better than his wife, but he, too, was nervous. They 
had left the vans and the horses a little way out, in charge of the 
men, who were to move slowly across country with them to the 
starting-point for the next tour, and George, though well dis- 
guised in a slouch hat and Mr. Jarvis's long coat, was in an 
agony of fear as they came by a suburban line of railway to a 
point where they could take a cab to the door. He felt sure that 
a description of him had been telegraphed to all the stations, and 
that there would be plenty of people on the look-out to earn the 
reward which had doubtless been offered. 

He would have been still more nervous had he known that for 
days a stout gentleman had been hanging about the street looking 
up at this very house — a stout gentleman, who had recognised Mrs. 
Smith's face, and who had also read in the papers an account of 
a convict's escape, and had ascertained that this runaway convict 
was his old lodger, Mr. George Smith. 

Mr. Jabez Duck, applying himself diligently to his new busi- 
ness of private inquiry agent, had progressed rapidly in his 
employer's favour, and found himself soon very fairly off, with 
a good salary, liberal journey 'exes,' and a house full of lodgers 
at home, who more than paid his rent. He and Susan occa- 
sionally had a little flare up, but as a rule they jogged along very 
comfortably. 



265 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

It was in the course of his professional perusal of ' Lost, 
Stolen, or Strayed,' the agony column and the mysterious crime 
department of the daily press, that Jabez lighted upon the in- 
telligence that his old lodger, George Smith, had escaped and 
eluded his pursuers. 

Jabez had previously by accident recognised Mrs. Smith, as 
she stood looking out of the window of Shakspeare Jarvis's 
room one day, and Jabez said to himself that if George Smith 
got to London undiscovered he would make his way to where 
his wife was. 

When the days went on and the escaped convict was not heard 
of, Jabez felt sure that he had got safely through the country 
and was coming townward. Here was a chance for him to distin- 
guish himself in his business and get his name in all the papers. 
He might beat the professional detectives at their own game, 
and show how much cleverer he was than the Scotland Yard 
folks. 

Day after day he watched the little house in Lambeth, and 
made inquiries round about in a quiet and innocent manner as 
to whether any one had arrived. He got acquainted with one of 
the lodgers in the house, and went through the whole pro- 
gramme of manoeuvres which enables the private inquiry agent 
to know our business, if he wants to, better than we know it our- 
selves. 

If I am curious about Mr. Jones in the next street, or Mr. 
Stubbs opposite, and want to know all about him, I have but to 
get a subscriber to one of the trade protection societies to ' put 
an inquiry through ' for me. The process is simple. The 
inquirer fills up a printed form with the name and address of the 
person he is curious about, and the nature of information re- 
quired, and hands it in at the office. In three or four days he 
gets a reply. One of these replies lies before the writer. It is 
a gem. ' No. 316. The person inquired about has lived at his 
present address two years. Was formerly a publican, but 
became bankrupt in 1874. Since then has married a second 
wife, who is said to have money. Attends race meetings, and is 
addicted to drink. Has been summoned twice for assaulting his 
present wife. Tradespeople in neighbourhood have difficulty 
in getting their accounts settled. Has a brother undergoing 
penal servitude. Further information if required.' 

It isn't pleasant to think that, without our knowledge, we 
ourselves, gentle reader, may be inquired about half a dozen 
times a year by these agent gentlemen, and that whatever 
scandal they may pick up of a tradesmen we have ceased to deal 
with, or a discharged servant, is duly entered against us to our 
detriment, without the possibility of our refuting the libellous 
statement, of which we are in sublime ignorance. 

Mr. Jabez gathered his information from the usual sources, 
but his legal training had taught him always to verify hearsay 



THE ARREST. 267 

evidence, and he generally got pretty near the mark. In the 
present instance he ascertained that Mrs. Smith was still a 
grass widow, and that no husband had appeared upon the 
scene. 

He was almost giving the case up as a bad job, when, walk- 
ing through the street on other business, he looked up at a 
passing four-wheeler, and just caught sight of a face which 
caused him to stand still and utter an exclamation of surprise. 

It was the face of George Smith, the escaped convict. 

In an instant Jabez guessed whither his prey was bound, and 
he did not take the trouble to follow him. He walked quietly 
back to his office, settled the business he ~ had in hand, and then 
went to a detective with whom he occasionally worked, and con- 
cocted the plan for George's arrest. 

Jabez told the officer a romantic story, all intended for publi- 
cation in the daily papers by-and-by, of how he had gone to 
work to discover the whereabouts of the runaway convict, and 
then arranged that the detective was to arrest George and take 
him off, and charge him with being a convict at large, while he 
telegraphed to the prison authorities, and he and Jabez were to 
share the reward offered for the capture, Jabez in addition 
getting the fame for his sagacity and ingenuity. The affair 
would be well reported, and would give Mr. Duck what he was 
pleased to call a rare ' leg up ' in his profession. Who could say 
but that the authorities might not employ him by-and-by ? He 
would start on his own account on the strength of the advertise- 
ment, and be sure of the private patronage of missing-friend 
and disappeared-daughter hunters. 

So it was all arranged, and that afternoon, as the shadows fell 
and the inmates of the little parlour were sitting round the fire, 
Detective Johnson, with two men in uniform, came down the 
street, and reconnoitered the house from the opposite side of the 
way. 

There was only one thing Jabez had forgotten, and that was 
to give his friend a description of the man. 

Johnson remembered it afterwards, and would have gone back 
and asked whether he was young or old, and what he was like, 
but there was no time, as the bird might fly when the darkness 
came on. 

Xow it happened that at that very moment Shakspeare was 
flattening his face against the window-pane, and peering down 
into the street. His quick eyes caught those of the detective 
fixed upon the house. 

' Hulloh, father !' cried Shakspeare ; ' look here ! Isn't that 
the 'tec that we see so often at the races ?' 

At the word ' 'tec,' George's face went deadly pale, and he 
sprang from his seat. 

Old Jarvis looked out, and ho took the situation in in a 
moment. 



268 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

1 By Jove, yes ! He's -watching the house ; and there's two 
peelers at the corner.' 

Bess, with a wild cry, flung her arms around George's 
neck. 

Old Jarvis hesitated a moment. Then he turned to George. 
' Quick, quick ! — this way !' he said. ' I may save you yet !' 
Hardly knowing what he did, George followed the old show- 
man from the room, and ran upstairs with him. 

Bess staggered after him as far as the door, and then fell 
fainting into the arms of Mrs. Jarvis. 
At that moment a loud knock. 

' Let 'em knock,' shouted Jarvis down the stairs. ' Don't 
open till I tell you.' 

The knocking continued. There was a sound of hurried 
movements in the room above, and Mrs. Jarvis wondered what 
her husband was doing. 

Presently there was a noise of some one going rapidly upstairs, 
and in a minute or two all was still. 

The knocking grew louder and louder, and a curious crowd, 
attracted by the noise, gathered outside. The policemen had 
been sent round to the back to watch the garden, lest the bird 
should attempt to fly that way. 

Mrs. Jarvis ran half-way up the stairs. 

' What am I to do !' she cried. ' They'll burst the door in 
directly, and there's a crowd half across the street.' 

' Open !' answered a smothered voice that she could hardly 
recognise. 

Mrs. Jarvis stepped to the door, and opened it. 
' Hoity-toity !' she exclaimed, putting her arms akimbo ; 
1 what's all this noise about ? Are you the Taxes, or the Gas, or 
the Water ?' 

' All right, mum,' said the detective, coming in and shutting 
the door after him ; ' you're fly, I see. We want the man who's 
here — an escaped convict. Here's my authority to search the 
house.' 

Mrs. Jarvis looked at the detective's card, her buxom form 
effectually blocking up the staircase. 

' Conwick !' she exclaimed. ' Why, lawks a mussy, man, what- 
ever should we do with a conwick here ?' 

'I don't want to do anything unpleasant, my good woman,' 
answered the detective ; ' so perhaps you'll stand aside and let 
me search the house.' 

' Search away, and welcome !' replied Mrs. Jarvis, moving 
aside ; ' and if you finds a conwick, let's have a look at him. I 
never see one afore.' 

The detective went up the stairs two at a time, and commenced 
to search. A policeman stood at the front door to see no one 
passed out. 
The detective was not very long before he found what he was 



THE ARREST 269 

in search of. He went straight to the top room, which he had 
ascertained was occupied by the convict's wife. 

He entered cautiously, and looked about him. It was empty. 
But he was not content with a superficial glance. 
He peered into every corner, and then, stooping down, looked 
under the bed. 

' I guessed as mucb,' he muttered. Then, drawing a revolver 
from his pocket, he exclaimed, in a loud voice : 
' Now, then, out you come, or I shall shoot.' 
Slowly a man crept out, trembling and holding his face aside. 
He was wrapped in a long coat, buttoned to the chin. 

The detective, still holding the revolver in one hand, walked 
up to him and looked him full in the face. 

' George Heritage,' he said, 'I arrest you as an escaped con- 
vict.' 

' I am not George Heritage,' said the man in a low voice. 
' You re not George Heritage, aren't you ?' he said. ' Well, I'll 
take you on spec. If you're not the man, what did you hide 
under that bed for, and what are you doing in Mrs. Smith's room, 
eh?' 

' I don't know,' answered the man huskily. 
' Ah, but I do,' exclaimed the detective, suddenly seizing the 
trembling wretch. ' Come, let's slip the bracelets on.' In the 
struggle, the long coat was torn aside. ' Ah, you're not the 
man, aren't you ? That's good ! I thought I should bowl you 
out.' 

There could be no doubt that this was the right man. 
Underneath the long coat he wore the prison garb of the con- 
vict. 

He went quietly enough then. The police kept the door while 
he was put into a cab, and then they jumped in too, and off went 
the party to the police station. 

The scene in the little parlour was heartrending. 
Bess lay in a dead faint on the sofa, Mrs. Jarvis slapping her 
hands and bathing her face to bring her to, and Shakspeare, 
white as death, crying in a corner. 

Presently there was the sound of footsteps creeping cautiously 
down the stairs, and the next minute a man, his face ashy white, 
stole into the room. Bess opened her eyes and gave a loud 
hysterical cry. 

The next moment her head was on the man's breast, and her 
lips were moving in thankfulness to heaven. 
It was George. 

The good showman had dressed himself in the convict's 
clothes, which they had brought with them in the box, and the 
detective, who knew nothing except that he was an escaped 
convict, and had no knowledge of his age or appearance, had 
been caught in the trap. 



—o ROGC~£S AXD VAGABOXPS. 

George had climbed tlirough the trap-door that led to the roof, 
and lain concealed till the officers had gone. 

We mustn't stay here a minute,' he cried, 'when Bess had 
recovered. ' The trick will be found out directly he gets to the 
station, and they'll be back here directly. I must go.' 

L Xot alone. George, cried Bess: 'not alone. Let us be 
together while we can. Oh, George, away from you now I 
should die. Let me share vour danger ! Let me come with 
you!' 

It was in vain that George pleaded. 

Bess would not hear of it. She would wander forth with 
him. She should know his fate then. The uncertainty would 
kill her. 

In a few minutes, well wrapped up with scarves and shawls, 
which the good-hearted Mrs. Jarvis insisted upon their taking, 
and with five sovereigns which she thrust into Bess's hand as 
they were going, the convict and his wife stole cautiously out of 
the house, and hurried away, intending to make for the outskirts. 
and trust to Providence for some means of leaving the country 
undetected. 

Bess wore a deep veil, and George, at Mrs, Jarvis's suggestion, 
bought a pair of eye-protectors, and wore his scarf over Ins 
month, as though he had a bad cold. Thus disguised, and dressed 
in the loose, ill-fitting suit Mr. Jarvis had lent him in the morn- 
ing, there was every possible chance of their eluding pursuit with 
ordinary caution. 

Shakspeare came up to the door as they were leaving, and put 
his arm round Bess s neck and kissed her, and bade her good- 
bye. 

He knew her story now, and why she cried over those 
letters. 

I wish I was as sure o' heaven as I am o' that young fellow's 
hinnercence, exclaimed Mrs. Jarvis, as she tried to soothe 
Shakspeare, who was quite upset by his nurse's tragic depar- 
ture. 

'Innocent!' exclaimed Shakspeare. 'Do you think ,-7u''d love 
him if he wasn't '? Ah, if I -,, s only strong again, and a bit 
older, I'd soon prove it.' 

• Don't you fret, my boy, answered Mrs. Jarvis. • It '11 all 
come right yet, like it does in the dramas. You mark my words. 
Wirtue's always triumphant in the last act. and I shouldn't be at 
all surprised if that act ain't the next in this here drama o' " The 
Conwiek's Wife," though what'll happen to your poor father, as 
is playing the low-comedy business in it just uow. Goodness only 
knows !' 



A RESCUE. 271 

CHAPTER LVI. 

A RESCUE. 

Twelve o'clock has chimed from Big Ben, and Hyde Park is 
deserted. 

It is a cold winter night, and the snow lies upon London's 
open spaces. 

It has been freezing hard all day, but the ice on the Serpentine 
is not thick enough to bear the great army of skaters yet, and so 
there are no loiterers along the bank. 

Here and there, eluding as best they can the bull's-eye of the 
policeman who saunters along on his round, He the miserable 
homeless wretches who creep into the London parks and stretch 
their weary limbs out for a while upon the seats. 

On one of these seats sit, or rather crouch, a man and a 
woman. 

The man is speaking. 

' Bess, my darling, leave me,' he says. ' Leave me. I can 
shift for myself. Go back to the Jarvises — they will give you 
shelter, and I will contrive to let you know from time to time 
where I am.' 

' No, George dear,' answers the woman, ' I will not leave you. 
Come what may, I will stay with you. I could not rest, know- 
ing that at any moment you might be discovered and taken 
back again to that dreadful place. Something tells me to hope 
— to hope that our troubles may yet pass away, and we may find 
peace at last.' 

' In the grave — nowhere else,' answers the man sorrowfully. 
' I am branded. I am something to be hunted like a beast. 
Every man's hand is against me. I am an escaped convict.' 

' Hush, hush !' whispers the woman. ' Do not speak so loud ; 
some one may hear you.' 

' Where are we to sleep to-night ?' says the man presently. 
' You can't wander about agaii; - ch a bitter night as this.' 

The woman does not answei. She is wondering what they 
are to do. They are not starving, these people, and they are 
warmly wrapped up ; nor are they penniless, for Mrs. Jarvis 
had not only slipped some money into Bess's hand, but told her 
to come for more if they wanted it. 

They could afford to pay for a lodging ; but where are they 
to go ? Everywhere the man is terrified lest questions should 
be asked, lest he should be recognised. The news of his escape 
is far and wide, his description is advertised in the papers. 
For days they have been wandering about, Bess going into the 
shops and buying the food, and at night they have been sleeping 
in out-of-the-way parts of London, entering late at night into 



272 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

the lodging-houses, and George keeping his face tied up as 
though he had a bad cold. 

They have adopted every means in their power to elude dis- 
covery ; but George is nervous, and Bess shares his fears. Last 
night when they applied for a room at a little inn up by Ham- 
mersmith, the landlady stared at George and hesitated, and all 
night long they lay awake, fearing they heard the steps of the 
police on the stairs. To-night they dread to apply anywhere. 
iSo long as they can wander about in the parks and quiet places 
they feel safe. It is when night comes, and they must go be- 
tween four walls, that the great terror comes. 

Thus it is that they are lingering on to-night in the park. 
George suggests presently that they shall move on a little, for a 
thick mist is falling. 

Just as they are rising to go they hear voices down by the 
water, the voices of men quarrelling, and something impels them 
to stay where they are and listen. 

They are quite alone in this part of the park ; the night is 
too bitter for any to linger in such a spot. The mist has grown 
thicker and thicker, and they can see no forms, they can only 
hear the two voices in angry dispute. 

Presently there is a loud oath, then a crash, as of yielding ice, 
a splash and a cry, and then the sound of footsteps hurrying 
away through the fog. 

Bess clutches her husband's arm and listens. 
' Help ! help !' 

It is a faint cry from the water's edge, and the thick mist 
half drowns it. 

Forgetting his position, forgetting all save that perhaps a 
fellow-creature is in deadly peril, George Heritage runs in the 
direction of the sound. Bess follows him. 

He can hear a voice, and he can see two dark arms waving 
through the mist. 

' Where are you ?' he shouts. 

' Here ! here ! Help, for God's sake, help !' shouts the man in 
the water, ' I cannot hold out ! I'm going ! — the water's a- 
dragging of me down ! Help ! help !' 

Quick as thought, Bess tears her shawl off, and gives it to her 
husband. 

' God have mercy on me !' cries the man, struggling fiercely 
to raise himself above the crackling, treacherous ice. ' Lord 
forgive me !' 

At that moment George, clutching his wife's hand firmly to 
support himself, throws the shawl across the thinly frozen 
water. With a wild despairing cry the man flings out his hand 
and clutches it. A moment more and he is dragged ashore. 

He is faint with exertion, and gasping, and he can scarcely 
stand. 



A RESCUE. 273 

1 Give me some brandy, quick !' he murmurs. ' The damned 
villain's nearly put my light out — curse him !' 

' Hush !' cries G-eorge. ' Thank God for your safety.' 

Bess, trembling in every limb with terror, has been feeling in 
her pocket. Dreading lest George should fall ill, she had, like 
the loving, thoughtful little woman she always was, put a small 
bottle in her pocket, and had it filled in the morning. 

The half-drowned man seizes it, and gulps the contents down. 

Then he turns to his preserver and peers into his face. 
Directly he can discern his features he starts back. His teelh 
are still chattering with the shock of the immersion, as he gasps 
out, ' George Heritage !' 

George starts back in terror, and Bess almost falls. Who is 
this man they have saved from death to cry their secret aloud 
like this ? 

' Nay, don't be afeard,' growls the man. ' You've saved my 
life, and you've done the best night's work you ever done in 
your lives. Let's get out of this place, and I'll tell you something 
as'll make you thank God all your days for what you've done.' 

Hardly knowing what they do, so dazed are they by the rapid 
progress of events, George and Bess follow the strange man. 
He is wet to his waist, and his saturated clothes are frozen on 
him, but he doesn't seem to care about it. His mind is busy 
with some thought that makes his burly frame heave with 
passion, and his fierce face hideous with rage. 

' By G — d, if he only knew !' he cries. 

At the park gates he gets into a cab, and bids his preservers 
follow him. He tells them enough to assure them he means 
them no harm. 

In a quarter of an hour George and Bess are safely sheltered 
in a house in Lisson Grove, and the man they have rescued sits 
with them by a roaring fire, and tells them a story which makes 
Bess's pale cheeks crimson with excitement and her eyes bright 
with joy, and which makes George raise his eyes to heaven in 
thankfulness, and cry : 

' At last. Thank God !— thank God !' 

The man they have rescued is Josh Heckett, and the man 
whose retreating footsteps they had heard in the mist, and who 
in a fit of furious rage had hurled the old man on to the 
treacherous ice, was Edward Marston. 

The next morning there was a council of war. George con- 
fided his story fully to Heckett, for he had learnt enough to 
know that Heckett cherished a scheme of deadly revenge, and 
that George was to be the chief instrument in it. 

Heckett had only one idea now — to hunt down Marston. He 
was relentless in his hate, and he had found an instrument ready 
to his hand. 

Heedless of his own safety, and the use that might be made 

18 



274 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

of the knowledge, he told George all. How the burglary had 
been planned ; how it was George had been suspected ; how the 
cheques had been forged by Smith and Co. ; and how the 
evidence had been built up in order to secure the conviction of 
an innocent man. 

George was for dragging him away there and then to tell his 
story ; but Heckett soon showed him what folly that would be. 
He himself dare not appear. He could not face the police, he 
said, for reasons ; and, besides, to exculpate George he would 
have to accuse himself. 

' You bide a bit, governor, and you'll see it'll all come right ; 
but it's Marston as must do you justice, not me.' 

' Where is he ?' asked George. 

' I don't know,' answered Heckett. ' I saw him last night for 
the first time for five years. I sent word to a man named Preene 
as I must see him, and Preene found him and sent him to me. 
I made the appointment in the park late, for I didn't want to 
be seen by too many people, for I didn't know what cursed 
game he might be up to. Then we had a row, and he tried to 
murder me, the blackguard !' 

' It might have been an accident,' suggested George. 

' No. It was my life against his, and he knew it. I knew 
too much, and he feared as I should peach, and so he thought to 
settle me that way. You saved me, and it's the rummest thing 
as ever was. One 'ud think it was to be.' 

At last George yielded to Heckett's solicitation to let him go 
his own way to work. So far he was already benefited by the 
acquaintance. The house was Heckett's. For reasons of his own 
he kept it to himself entirely, and there George and Bess could 
remain for a while safe from pursuit. 

Safe until Heckett's great scheme of vengeance was ripe, and 
then the old man swore to George he should stand boldly bef o:-e 
the world and unmask the author of all his misery and suffering ■-, 



CHAPTER L VII. 

SQUIRE HERITAGE HAS A BAD ATTACK. 

On the morning after the attempted murder and the rescue of 
Josh Heckett in Hyde Park, Mrs. Heritage rose early and came 
downstairs. 

She had not slept all night, and she was thoroughly miserable. 
Her husband had been up in town several days, and she had 
never had a line from him. 

She invented a story to tell her mother and Gertie when they 
asked where the squire was ; but she was terribly distressed by 
his extraordinary conduct, and his cruelty in leaving her without 
any news of him. 



SQUIRE HERITAGE HAS A BAD ATTACK. 275 

She was terrified lest there was something in the old life which 
he had kept from her and which was now troubling him. A 
thousand name-loss fears floated across her brain and caused her 
the most terrible mental torture. 

She remembered his wild youth, their long separation, and the 
tales that she had heard from time to time. But their married 
life hitherto had given the lie to calumny. He had been a 
tender and devoted husband, and there had been nothing to show 
that he had anything to trouble him, save those occasional fits of 
depression which he assured her were constitutional. 

Suddenly all had changed. He had broken out fiercely, spoken 
cruelly to her, and gone away without giving her the slightest 
clue to his whereabouts. 

What could it mean ? 

This morning she went into the breakfast -room to feed her 
birds — to do anything to divert her mind from painful thoughts 
— and there she found her husband. 

He must have come back by the first train and entered the 
house directly the servants were up, for she had heard no boll 
ring. 

When she entered the room he was sitting by the fire, his head 
bent down and his hands clasped. 

He raised his head at the sound of her approach, and she 
started back and gave a little cry of terror. 

His face was ashy white, his eyes were bloodshot, and a strange 
hunted look in them that she had never seen before. 

' Edward !' she cried, running to him and falling on her knees 
beside him — ' Edward, you are ill !' 

He raised her gently. 

' No, Kuth,' he said, ' it's nothing. Don't make a fuss, there's 
a good girl. Give me the brandy out of the cellaret.' 

Ruth took her keys from the little basket she carried, and 
gave him the brandy. 

He half filled a glass and swallowed it at a draught. 

' I'm better now,' he said. ' Don't ask me any questions, there's 
a good girl. I'm going to bed for an hour or two. I shall be all 
right directly.' 

He seemed to avoid her gaze. He wanted to get away from 
her, and, with a woman's quick instinct, she saw it. She let him 
go, and then she fell on her knees, and, with tears streaming down 
her cheeks, she sobbed out a prayer to God to watch over and 
protect her husband, and to let no black shadows come to mar 
their lives — lives that had been so happy until now. 

The squire came down to luncheon, but he was still white and 
restless. He answered Gertie and his wife haphazard, and evi- 
dently did not know what he said. 

That afternoon, for the first time in their married life, Ruth 
saw her husband drunk. He had stupified himself with brandy, 
and had fallen into a drunken sleep. 

18-2 



■i 7 6 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

She had gone to him in his study to ask him a question, and 
there she found him dozing fitfully, with the empty bottle by 
his side. 

He heard her footsteps, but did not recognize her. Without 
opening his eyes, he addressed her as though she was some one 
else. 

He cursed her and called her horrible names. Then suddenly 
he leapt up, his bloodshot eyes starting from his head, and 
struggled with an imaginary foe. 

' It's your own fault, curse you !' he cried. ' Drown, like the 
dog that you are !' Then he fell back heavily into his chair, and 
Ruth, alarmed, rushed out and called for help. 

He was in a fit. 

The doctor came, and was astonished. ' The brain is affected,' 
he said. ' Some terrible shock has unnerved him. He must be 
kept quite quiet and watched.' 

That night Ruth sat and watched by the bedside of a delirious 
husband. 

And in his delirium the horrible secrets of his life were told. 
Secrets so horrible, things so vile and unholy, that the woman 
who bore his name raised her despairing eyes to heaven, and 
cried to God passionately to close the madman's self -condemning 
lips. 



It was a fortnight before the squire came round again, and 
then he was the wreck oi his former self. 

Weak and ill, he would wander about in the air for an hour 
or two a day, leaning on his wife's arm, and uttering never a 
sound. 

Ruth, too, had changed. Her beautiful face was deeply lined, 
and her eyes were sunken. ' She's fretting about the master,' 
said the servants. They did not know that she was crushing 
down in her heart the ghastly secret that chance had revealed 
to her. 

Under that awful knowledge, slowly but surely her heart was 
breaking. And yet knowing all — having heard every awful 
word that had fallen from this man in his delirium — she loved 
him still, loved him as fondly as ever, and would have laid down 
her life to save him from one moment's pain. 

Slowly the squire mended. He grew less feeble, and could 
get about alone again. He seemed like a man recovering from 
a terrible dream. But the doctors were very careful with him. 
They had heard a good deal that he had said, and put it down to 
some terrible story in a book or a newspaper having made a 
great impression on him when he was in a low, nervous state. 
So he was forbidden on any account to see a paper yet, and 
none were brought into the house. He was glad of the pro- 



DR. OLIVER BIRNIE'S NEW PATIENT 277 

liiliition. Had be soon a newspaper, the first thing he would 
have done would have been to search for a paragraph among the 
old ones in which there was something about the dead body of 
an old man being found in the Serpentine, 



CHAPTER LVIII. 

DR. OLIVER BIRNIE'S NEW PATIENT. 

Di:. Oliver Birnie's consulting-room was generally pretty full 
in the morning, and always with paying patients. He had long 
since passed the 'super' stage of the profession. Lest any in- 
telligent reader should be unacquainted with this phase of 
medical practice, let me explain that it is the custom when 
young doctors are anxious to work up a reputation for being 
fashionable for them to engage a few supers — that is, to give 
advice gratis to a few selected persons, on condition that they 
come once or twice a week and help to make a crowd in the 
waiting-room. 

A doctor's house, like a theatre, must be crowded if the 
proprietor would have a success. An empty waiting-room is 
like an empty pit ; it dispirits the clientele. Let a patient have 
to wait a couple of hours, and he considers the doctor a great 
man ; let him find himself alone, and be shown in directly, and 
he imagines that the medical man can't be clever or he would be 
busier. 

Dr. Birnie was at home for consultation till twelve, and his 
rooms were generally crowded with genuine patients. They 
were, naturally, well-dressed, well-to-do people, for his fee was 
high. One morning, as the ladies and gentlemen at Dr. Birnie's 
sat glaring at each other amid the funereal silence which 
generally reigns in a doctor's waiting-room, the door opened, and 
a rough, hulking old man was shown in by the solemn attendant. 
He was about six feet, and broad in proportion, his hair and 
beard were grizzled, and his face was bronzed with exposure. 
He wasn't a nice-looking old gentleman at all, and his get-up 
did not improve his appearance. He wore a thick pilot jacket, 
which was anything but a fit, and round his throat was twisted a 
dirty white comforter. He took off his hat as he entered the 
room, and sidled awkwardly to a chair, sitting on the extreme 
edge, and eyeing the company nervously. At first the ladies and 
gentlemen wondered what such a huge, powerful fellow could 
possibly want with a doctor. They imagined he must be a 
navvy, or something of the sort, and they felt it was like his 
impudence to come and sit down in their presence. But 
presently the great frame was racked, the fierce face became 



278 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

crimson, and the silence of the waiting-room was broken by the 
violent coughing of the new-comer. 

That a man with a cough like that should need medical advice 
the ladies and gentlemen understood, but their astonishment was 
great when the door opened and the solemn attendant beckoned 
to this ' navigator ' to come out. 

The idea of the doctor taking such a person out of his turn ! 

It was strange, certainly, but Dr. Birnie had done it, and when 
the rough-looking fellow was shown into his consulting-room, he 
held out his hand, and exclaimed, quite familiarly, ' Well, Josh, 
wherever have you turned up from ?' 

Then Mr. Jcsh Heckett told Dr. Birnie a long story, beginning 
in England, then going to Australia, and coming back to 
England again, and the said story ended on the banks of the 
Serpentine. 

' G-ood gracious me !' said the doctor. ' And you mean to say 
that Marston deliberately tried to murder you ?' 

' I do by !' exclaimed Heckett, bringing his fist down on 

the table till the surgical instruments danced again ; ' and he's 
done it, except as it's a slow death 'stid of a quick 'un. I ain't 
been the same man, guv'nor, since that there night. It's the 
wettin' and the cold as done it. This 'ere corf don't give me no 
rest night nor day.' 

Dr. Birnie put something to the old man s chest and listened, 
then he put his ear to his back and made him draw his breath, 
and then the doctor's face assumed a grave, profound look. 

' Hem !' he said ; ' that's bad. You ought to have come to me 
before. How long have you had this cough ?' 

' Soon arter the duckin' it come on, and it's got wus and wus. 
I bought no end o : lozengers and things off the barrers, as they 
sez cures a corf in no time ; but they didn't do me a bit o' good. 
So I thought as I'd find you out and see if you could set me 
right. I ain't bothered you for a good many years now.' 

' Well, Josh, I'll see what I can do for you, but you must be 
careful. You'd better keep indoors as much as you can, and I'll 
give you a prescription.' 

The doctor wrote something on a piece of paper, and handed 
it to Josh. 

' You'll get that made up at any chemist's,' he said. ' Let me 
see you again in a week.' 

Josh took his prescription and thanked the doctor ; but before 
he went he told him a portion of another little story, and, carried 
away by his excitement, he even went so far as to let the doctor 
into the details of a little scheme of vengeance which he was 
brewing against a man whom the doctor in days gone by had 
once known exceedingly well. 

The doctor was so interested in the story that he let Josh talk 
on for ever so long, utterly oblivious of the ladies and gentlemen 
drumming their heels in the waiting-room, 



DR. OLIVER BIRXIE'S NEW PATIENT. 279 

And when Josh was gone he didn't send for a fresh patient at 
once, but sat for a few minutes buried in thought. 

I wonder what to do for the best,' he said, thinking aloud. ' I 
suspect Gurth would like to be in at the death, and it's all up 
with Edward Marston. He need fear nothing in that quarter 
now Yes, I think Gurth had better come.' 

That morning, when all the patients were disposed of, Dr. 
Birnie started out on his round of visits. 

But the first thing he did was to send a telegraphic message to 
America : 

'From Birnie, London, to Egerton, Hotel, New York. — 

Come back. The game is yours. M. is trapped." 



Josh Heckett's cough grew worse and worse. Bess and George 
were still with him, and very grateful they were for the means 
of avoiding pursuit. George never ventured out now, but Bess, 
thickly veiled, did all the marketing for the little household. 
She was a capital nurse too, and Josh, in his rough, uncouth way, 
was grateful. He had never known all his life what kindness 
was. Gertie he had looked upon as bound to do what he wanted, 
because he fed and kept her, and Gertie was only a child. But 
with Bess it was different. She and her husband had not only 
saved his life, they were going to be his chosen instruments in a 
deep-laid scheme of vengeance. ^ 

He had found out now the whole vile plot against him, and as 
he sat at home and coughed, he brooded over his wrongs. He 
had found out that he had been frightened out of the country by 
a ruse, and that Marston and Preene were at the bottom of it. 
Every time he coughed, every time he swayed to and fro, the 
great gorged veins on his head standing out in ridges with the 
violence of the paroxysms, he cursed Marston. He believed 
that he had caught his death that night in the cold waters of 
the Serpentine, and he grew almost to thirst for his destroyer's 
blood. 

If he had met Edward Marston face to face now he would 
have sprung upon him and throttled him where he stood. But 
the temptation did not come, and he sat and brooded over his 
wrongs, and matured the deep-laid scheme which was to put his 
enemy under his feet. 

He rubbed his hands when he thought of the scene. He 
chuckled and laughed to himself as he pictured the hour of his 
triumph. 

And day by day the cough grew worse and worse, and his 
brawny limbs lost more and more of their strength. Long sleep- 
less nights and days of- unrest were telling on him, and at times 
h^ would lean back in the easy-chair, which Bess had wheeled to 



23o ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

the fire for him, close his eyes, and wonder what sort of a world 
it was men like himself went to when they died. 

Bess and George knew only a portion of their protector's 
secret. They knew that he, like themselves, had been foully 
wronged by Marston. George lost sight of everything in his 
desire to wipe the awful stain from his name, and to clear him- 
self before the world. And Josh Heckett promised him if he 
would only be patient he should wring a confession of his inno- 
cence from the real culprit himself. 

It was necessary for them to act with caution, for George's 
recapture would have ruined all. Heckett would not risk all by 
striking till the blow was sure, and he had not the information 
he wanted yet, though some of his old associates were at work 
for him. 

Birnie had promised to assist him in something that he par- 
ticularly wanted to know, and one day the doctor's carriage drove 
up to the door, and the doctor came in and told Josh two things 
— one he was glad to hear, and one he would not have heard for 
untold gold. 

From the first piece of information he learnt that Marston 
was in his clutches now. The doctor had traced him to his den; 
the doctor had found out that he had inherited, through his wife, 
the Heritage estates, and that he had taken the name with the 
money. 

But the doctor also told Heckett that his cough was worse, 
and that he must take every care of himself, for the symptoms 
were serious, and a fresh cold on this one would end in con- 
sumption. 

And the doctor spoke only half the truth. 
The wetting and exposure to cold that eventful night in Hyde 
Park had done their work, and a fatal disease had already seized 
the stalwart burglar in its grip. 

The symptoms of galloping consumption had shown themselves 
to the experienced eye of Dr. Birnie. 



CHAPTER LIX. 

A VISITOR FOR RUTH. 



On one of the first days of spring Gertie Heckett stood at the 
lodge-gates, looking along the road as though she expected some 
one. 

Ruth had driven her husband out in the pony-carriage for the 
first time since his illness. Until to-day he had not gone beyond 
the park-gates. 



A VISITOR FOR RUTH. 281 

While Gertie was looking for the carriage, a young woman, 
deeply veiled, came by, and, seeing Gertie, stopped. 

' Is Mrs. Heritage at home, do you know, miss ?' said the 
woman, in a nice soft voice that took Gertie's fancy directly. 

' Xo, she's not,' answered Gertie. ' Do you want to see 
her ?' 

' Yes. I've come from London 011 purpose.' 

Gertie thought at first it must be some one in distress who had 
been recommended to come to them, for the young woman, 
though neat, didn't look very well off, so she asked if she could 
do anything for her. 

' Yes, miss, you can ; you can do me a great favour. I want 
to see Mrs. Heritage on most important business — important to 
her and to her husband. If you will let me go into the house 
and wait till she comes, I shall be glad.' 

' Will you step into the lodge ?' said Gertie, pointing to the 
open door. 

The woman shrank back with a little start. 

' No, thank you,' she said hesitatingly. ' I'd — I'd rather 
not.' 

Gertie thought it very funny that this strange woman should 
object to go into the lodge, and she was just going to ask her why 
she objected, when a loud bark was heard, and Lion came trotting 
along in front of the pony-carriage. 

The squire sat by his wife's side ; but few who had known 
him in the old time would have recognized him now. He had 
aged terribly. His face was deeply lined, and his hair had gone 
almost white during his illness. His head was bent forward and 
his eyes were half closed as the chaise drove up to the lodge-gate. 
At the sound of Gertie's voice he looked up, and saw the young 
woman talking to her. 

In an instant the listless look upon his face vanished, his 
lips trembled, his face flushed angrily, and his dull eyes 
flashed. 

' Who's this ?' he exclaimed angrily. 

' Some one who wishes to see Mrs. Heritage,' answered Gertie, 
surprised at the squire's manner. 

' Mrs. Heritage can't see her, then,' said the squire, taking the 
reins from Ruth and whipping the pony into a gallop. 

Gertie stared after the carriage in astonishment, as it was 
whirled up to the house-door ; but the young woman never 
moved. 

'I'm afraid the gentleman's offended with you for talking to 
me,' she said. ' Will you kindly give this to Mrs. Heritage pre- 
sently, without the gentleman seeing ?' 

Gertie, bewildered by the whole scene, took the note me- 
chanically that the woman handed to her, and slipped it into her 
pocket. Then, fearing that the squire would be angry if she 
stayed talking, she called to Lion, who had remained with her, 



282 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

and was sniffing suspiciously at the intruder, and ran up the 
broad gravel path to the hall, while the woman, with a brief 
' Thank you,' walked away in the direction of the village. 

Inside the house poor Gertie soon found that things were ' un- 
comfortable.' The squire had suddenly gone off into one of his 
fits, and was storming and raging in his study. Gertie ran in to 
see what was the matter, and found Ruth vainly endeavouring to 
calm her husband and make him listen to reason. 

The sight of Gertie aggravated him. She was a little spy — 
she was this, she was that. She was always talking to a parcel 
of tramps, and letting them learn everybody's business. What 
did this strange woman want with Ruth ? He wouldn't have a 
stranger admitted to the place. How often was he to say 
so ? They were all in league against him — that was what it 
was. 

Poor Ruth sat and listened patiently. She was used to her 
husband's paroxysms of temper and suspicion now. After the 
first great shock that had come upon her, she had set herself a 
task, and determined to bear all patiently. She had gathered 
from her husband's ravings only that he accused himself of ter- 
rible crimes. At first she had believed that he was really guilty, 
but gradually she had persuaded herself that it was merely the 
remembrance of his earlier surroundings appearing to a disordered 
mind. The doctor had told her that men in her husband's 
peculiar mental condition often accused themselves of terrible 
things, and that she was to take no notice of his words. It was 
but a phase of his disease. 

Some strong and sudden excitement had caused a temporary 
derangement, that was all. Rest and quiet were all he needed. 
The rest and quiet he had, and Ruth in time had the satisfaction 
of seeing him grow more reasonable, and at last, so far as his 
mental condition was concerned, all fear was removed. 

But his bodily health became worse and worse, and his nerves 
were always in a highly wrought condition. He could not 
bear the least noise, and the most trifling circumstance would 
fling him into an ungovernable rage. He was suspicious of 
everybody and of everything — of the servants, of Gertie, and of 
his wife. 

Ruth had long thought seriously of getting him away to try a 
complete change of scene, and on this very morning that they 
had gone for their first drive she had been urging him to try a 
three months' tour on the Continent. 

He had jumped at the idea, and the thought of the change had 
seemed to put new life into him. He had been almost cheerful 
and amiable all through the drive, and it was not till they neared 
home that he fell into a brown study, and the old dull, worried 
look came upon his face. 

The sight of Gertie talking to a strange woman at the lodge- 



A VISITOR FOR RUTH. 28s 

crates, and the woman's request to speak with Ruth, had produced 
a remarkable change. 

He became violent and abusive, and poor Ruth had to put up 
with another ' scene.' It was some time before she could quiet 
him. Gertie assured him again and again that the woman had 
said nothing more than that she wanted to see Mrs. Heritage : 
and Ruth explained that it was probably only some one sent 
from the village to appeal to her charity. 

Ruth and Gertie left the squire alone directly his temper had 
cooled down, for they knew by experience that after these 
paroxysms he would sit for hours gazing into vacancy and utter- 
ing no sound. 

When they were at a safe distance from the study, Gertie, 
trembling and looking as shamefaced as though she were com- 
mitting some awful crime, drew the strange woman's letter from 
her pocket and gave it to Ruth. 

' I was to give you this," she said in a whisper. ' I hope it wasn't 
wrong to take it.' 

Ruth took the letter, looking almost as guilty as Gertie. 

"Were her husband's suspicions justified after ail ? "Was this 
some new trouble coming upon them ? 

She put the letter in her pocket and went upstairs to her own 
room. 

She would not open it while Gertie was standing by. 

Alone in her bedroom, she turned the letter about and hesitated 
Prill. 

' Pshaw !' she exclaimed, with a forced laugh. ' What a 
goose I am ! I dare say, after all, it's somebody wants assist- 
ance.' 

She opened the letter and read it. It was short, but there was 
enough in it to drive the blood from Ruth's cheeks and make her 
tremble like an aspen-leaf. 

' Madam. 

; For your husband's sake, and if you value his liberty, let 
me see you alone. If I cannot see you at the house when I call, 
meet me outside the lodge-gates at eight. It will be dark then. 
Do not delay, as I must return to London to-night. Show this 
to no one. All depends upon your secrecy 

A Friend.' 

The letter fluttered down from Ruth s trembling grasp on to 
the floor. 

What did it mean ? 

Was it a trap ? She had read of such things. Xo, the woman 
had asked at first openly to see her. She had come in the broad 
daylight and been refused. 

For her husband's sake ! 

What terrible secret was about to be revealed to her ? She 



28+ ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

remembered now his wild words and the strange confessions he 
had poured out during his illness. 

She would know the worst. 

She made up fcer mind to go, and then the brave heart gave 
way. Surrounded on every side with mystery, her life, once so 
happy, had become almost a burden to her. She had hoped to 
be so happy with Edward, and everything had looked so bright 

once, and now Ruth Heritage buried her head in her hands 

and sobbed out an hysterical cry to heaven that God would guide 
her feet aright through the mazes of the rough, bleak road she 
and her husband were treading now 



CHAPTER LX. 

A SECRET MEETING. 

The night was pitch dark. There was not even a star in the 
sky to look down upon Ruth Heritage as she crept quietly out of 
her house and went swiftly down the walk towards the lodge 
gate. 

She was bound on an errand of love and mercy. She was 
going to see old Dame Huntley, the sexton's widow, who lay 
dying down in the low-lying district, where the fever and ague 
had been busy of late. The servants knew that their mistress 
was bound to Dame Huntley's, the squire knew it, and the lodge- 
keeper, who opened the gates, knew it, otherwise they might 
have wondered at Ruth going out alone at such a time. 

Outside the lodge gates the woman who had given Gertie the 
letter was waiting. 

Ruth trembled violently now. 

She half hoped the woman would not be there. 

Instinctively she paused. 

' Don't be afraid, madam,' said the mysterious woman, in a 
sweet, reassuring voice ; ' I only wanted a few words with you. 
I may not tell you who I am, but I have heard your story, and 
I pity you.' 

' You pity me !' said Ruth, astonished. ' Why !' 

' Because I know what is in store for you.' 

They had walked along by the side of the park, away from 
the lodge gates to a place where the hedge grew thickly over a 
low-lying wall. 

' Do not speak in riddles,' exclaimed Ruth. ' If your object is 
a friendly one — as something in your manner tells me it is — 
speak freely and let me know the worst. You said my husband's 
liberty was threatened — by whom ?' 

' By justice,' 



A SECRET MEETING. 285 

Ruth .started back. The old suspicion rushed back upon 
her, and her face flushed hot, and then went deadly pale. 
l>y justice ?' she stammered. ' I do not understand.' 

' Listen to me, madam, for my time is short. There are those 
to -whom the history of your husband's past life is^nown. Soon 
they will accuse him openly. One of his former associates will 
turn Queen's evidence against him. His deadliest enemy knows 
all. I tell you this now, because I have suffered myself, and I 
do not wish to be a party to that which will be a life-long separa- 
tion between husband and wife. I am doing wrong, but I can- 
not help it.' 

' Yes — yes !' cried Ruth, ' I believe you. But what am I to 
do?' 

' Bid your husband leave this place to-night. Tell him that 
the secret of the great gold robbery is known to Mr. Gurth 
Egerton, and that to-morrow he may be arrested.' 

Ruth gave a cry of horror — a cry which died away on her 
ashy lips as a loud rustling by the hedge announced the presence 
of some one — some one who had perhaps overheard all. 

Ruth and her informant walked quickly away. 

' Go now,' said the woman. ' You have no time to lose. Let 
your husband fly at once. To-morrow it will be too late.' 

' Yes ; I will ! I will !' cried Ruth, almost fainting with 
horror and grief. ' But tell me how you know this. ' 

' How I know it !' said the woman, passionately flinging up 
her veil. ' Look at me well — you, whose husband I have saved — 
and remember me. I am the wife of George Heritage. I am 
the rightful mistress of these broad lands. My husband is a 
convict — a hunted felon. He was the victim of a vile plot, which 
your husband concocted. I know all now ; and yet I forgive 
him for your sake. I want no wife's agony on my head if it can 
be spared. Your husband ruined mine. I have come to save 
yours !' 

Ruth buried her face in her hands as Bess poured out her wild 
words — words wrung from her heart. 

' Remember,' said the woman, ' to-morrow it will be too late.' 

As she spoke she walked rapidly away, leaving Ruth rooted to 
the spot. 

As soon as her limbs would obey her will, terrified and heart- 
broken, Ruth staggered, rather than walked, back to the hall. 

Coming down the walk she met her husband. 

' Edward !' she cried, ' where are you going V 

' Hush, Ruth !' he exclaimed, seizing her arm. ' Don't say a 
word. I have heard all. I followed you. God forgive me for 
dragging you down to this ! I will save you yet if I can.' 

' Oh, Edward ! what would you do ?' she cried. 

' You call me Edward still ?' he said, with a look of gratitude 
in his eyes — ' you, who are so pure and good, though you know 
now the secret that has preyed upon and been slowly killing me 



286 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

for years ? Ruth, can you ever forgive me for my base treachery 
in letting you link yourself with a God-forsaken wretch ?' 

' Yes, Edward, I forgive you. You are my husband — my 
kind, loving husband — still.' 

' Thank God for those words, Ruth !' he said. ' Kiss me.' 

He bent over her in the dark night, and his trembling lips 
pressed hers. 

' Where are you going ?' she said. ' Let me go with you.' 

' No ; there is only one chance now. I must find out Egerton 
at once. He is the enemy who is 'doing this. I believe I can 
silence him yet. If I can't I must leave the country at once. 
Ruth, if we never meet again, God bless you !' 

He tore himself from her agonized embrace, and went swiftly 
down the walk and along the road to the station. 

All that night there was a faint light burning in Ruth's room 
— the room where everything reminded her of the husband who 
had set out on a perilous journey from whence he might never 
return. 

And all that night, with tears and sobs, Ruth knelt and 
prayed — prayed as she had never prayed before to the God she 
worshipped — for help and succour in this, the darkest hour of 
her life. 

Late that evening Squire Heritage called at Mr. Seth Preene's 
house. 

Seth started up in astonishment. 

' Why, whatever brings you up to town ?' 

' The worst,' answered the squire. ' Gurth Egerton is back, 
and knows all. He will split to-morrow.' 

' How do you know ?' gasped Preene. 

' A woman has split on the plot,' answered the squire. ' There s 
only one chance now. Do you know where Egerton is ?' 

' Yes, at his house— at Birnie's that is now.' 

' Are you sure ?' 

' Yes. I followed him from Heckett's only yesterday. I won- 
dered what he was doing there.' 

'At Heckett's !' gasped the squire. ' Is Heckett still— still — 
alive ?' 

' Yes,' answered Preene, looking steadily at his companion ; 
' but he won't do much more mischief. He's in a galloping con- 
sumption.' 

The squire heaved a deep sigh. At least he was free from the 
brand of Cain. 

'I've been going to write to you once or twice about the 
goings-on there,' said Preene ; ' only you agreed to see Heckett, 
last time you were here, and square him, and as I never heard 
any more from you, I concluded you had. There's some people 
staying in his house, and I can't make out who they are.' 

The squire scarcely heard what Preene said. He was turning 



A LATE VISITOR FOR MR. EGERTON. 287 

over a desperate scheme in his mind. If he could secure Gurth, 
he could secure Heckett too. He would brave the worst and see 
Egerton at once. 

' By Heaven !' ho muttered to himself, ' I'll play my last card, 
' and hazard all upon it. Let Gurth Egerton look to himself, for 
now it is a struggle to the death. I will not fall alone.' 



CHAPTER LXI. 

A LATE VISITOR FOR MR. EGERTON. 

>S \>riuE Heritage, or Edward Marston, as we may now again 
call him, leapt into a cab when he left Preene, and bade the man 
drive to Birnie's address. 

It was then close on midnight. 

He was playing a desperate game in venturing thus into the 
lion's den, but it was the last chance left him. 

If he could silence Egerton he might purchase a respite from 
Heckett even now. Heckett was evidently dying, and had no 
longer fear or trouble for himself. He had escaped from tha 
Serpentine that night, and had made Egerton the instrument of 
his vengeance. But the blow had not actually fallen, and he 
might yet stay the uplifted hand. If he could, there might 
be some peace in store for him. He did not care for himself. 
He was sick and tired of it all. His punishment was heavier 
than he could bear ; but for Ruth's sake he would strive and 
struggle yet to fight against fate. Let the shame be spared to 
her of being a felon's wife. 

'Poor Ruth! Noble Ruth!' he thought. 'She knows mo 
now in all my hideous impurity, and yet she forgives me. Oh, 
how different things might have been !' 

Ah, me ! that ' might have been !' It is the anthem of the lost 
soul, the despairing cry of the sinner caught in the toils of his 
sin. 

It was a little past midnight when Marston rang the doctor's 
bell, but the lights were still burning in the house. 

' I want to see Mr. Egerton, if he is in, on important busi- 
ness.' 

' He is not in yet, sir,' said the servant. ' He and the doctor 
are at the theatre, and have not returned yet.' 

' I will wait,' said Marston, brushing past the man into the 
hall. ' My business with him is of the utmost importance.' 

' Will you step into the library, sir ?' said the servant, over- 
awed by the manner of this imperious visitor. 

Marston followed thu servant, who turned up the lights and 
left him. 



238 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

The evening papers, unfolded, were lying on the table. 

Marston picked up one casually, and glanced along the 
columns. 

Suddenly his eye was arrested by a name, and he read the 
paragraph carefully. It was headed, ' A Message from the Sea,' 
and ran as follows : 

' This morning, as some fishermen were off the coast of , 

one of them picked up a bottle which was floating past them and 
brought it ashore. On opening it it was found to contain a 
piece of paper, on which was something written in pencil, of 
which the following words only are decipherable, the salt water 
having soaked through a faulty cork and obliterated the re- 
mainder : 

' " On board the 
' " The ship is sinking rapidly. I, Gurt 
am about to die, do solemnly declare tha 
of September, 18 — , I stabbed my cousin, Ra 
house, kept by a man named Heck 
I freely make this confession, an 

' The bottle with its contents has been handed to the police, 
though it is doubtful if any clue will ever be obtained to the 
meaning of this extraordinary message from the sea.' 

Yes, to one man there was a clue. 

Edward Marston read each word, and it seemed as tbough 
Providence had sent the message to him. His pale face glowed ; 
his sunken eyes gleamed. 

He had G-urth Egerton's life in his hand. 

Let him come now — he was ready. 

He saw it all. 

When the Bon Espoir was sinking, Egerton, with the terrors 
of death upon him, had hurled this into the sea ; it had floated 
about for years, to be cast ashore now — now, when such a reve- 
lation placed the murderer at the mercy of the man he would 
injure. 

Marston s suspicions were confirmed. He had always sus- 
pected that Ralph Egerton had met with foul play. 

He could hardly believe that the paper he held in his hand 
was real — that he was not the victim of some nightmare, from 
which he would presently awake. t 

While he sat staring at the paper, and reading it again and 
again, there came a ring at the bell. 

Marston folded the paper and threw it back in its place. 

The next moment Gurth Egerton came into the room. 

The servant had told him a gentleman wanted to see him. 

He started violently when he saw Marston. 

' You here ?' he exclaimed. 



A LATE VISITOR FOR MR. EGERTON. 289 

' Yes, Mr. Egerton,' said Marston calmly. ' I've just come to 
pay you a little friendly visit before I leave the country.' 

Egerton wondered what ho should do. On the morrow he 
was prepared to denounce this man to justice — not openly, 
but through George Heritage — and here was the man sitting 
quietly and calmly in his house. 

Egerton could not at once conceal his agitation at being thus 
confronted by his intended victim. 

' You don't seem pleased to see me,' said Marston. 

' "Well, to tell you the truth, my dear fellow,' answered Gurth, 
' I'm not. What have you come for ?' 

' On the old business. Just to have a chat. When are you 
going to split on your old pal ?' 

Egerton's face flushed crimson, and he stammered out, 'I — I — 
don't understand you !' 

' Tut, tut, man ! Let's play cards on the table. We're not 
the raw lads we were in the old days when you were plucking 
your cousin Ralph.' 

' It's a lie !' said Egerton fiercely. ' I never plucked Ralph, 
as you call it.' 

' My dear fellow, what a fuss you make about such a paltry 
accusation. Why, if I had said you murdered him you couldn't 
look more indignant.' 

' Enough !' exclaimed Egerton with an oath. ' You have not 
come here to talk about Ralph Egerton.' 

' Indeed I have !' said Marston. ' And be civil, if you can, 
for I've come to do you a service. You're a careless fellow, 
to leave a confession of murder kicking about on the sea.' 

Egerton leapt to his feet and seized Marston by the arm. His 
face was a deathly white, and his lips trembled, while great beads 
of perspiration stood upon his brow. 

'Hush!' he whispered hoarsely. ' Not so loud. What do ycu 
mean V 

' Lord, man ! what's the matter ? You don't think I'm going 
to round on you, do you ? I only want you to do me a favour, 
and I'll do you one in return. I have in my possession your 
written confession of the murder of your cousin, signed by 
you. You wrote it w _ hen the Bon Espoir was sinking — and I 
have it.' 

' The sea has given up her dead !' cried Egerton, starting back, 
his face distorted with terror. 

' It has,' said Marston quietly. ' Your life is in my hands. 
Come, you were going to play me a scurvy trick. I'll return 
good for evil. This confession is in my hands. Do what I ask 
you, and you shall have it and tear it up.' 

' Name your terms,' groaned Egerton, sinking into a chair and 
burying his face in his hands. ' I am at your mercy.' 

' My terms are simple. Come with me now to Heckett's and 
make him swear not to betray me. I know the plot between 

19 



290 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

you. I am not so easily fooled as you think. Come and do this, 
and I will place the confession in your hands.' 

' You swear it ?' 

' I swear it. But you don't want an oath from an old friend 
like me, I should think.' 

' I will do it,' said Egerton eagerly. ' Come— come at once. 
Not a word to Birnie — not a word to any living soul. Come !' 

Egerton went out first into the hall. Marston followed, 
quietly slipping the evening paper into his pocket as he went 
out. The servant was in the hall. 

' Tell the doctor I'm gone out with my friend,' said Egerton 
to the servant ; ' and don't sit up for me. I'll let myself in with 
the key.' 

The two men went out, and the servant closed the door after 
them. 

' What's up, I wonder ?' said that worthy to himself. ' Here's 
a gent, as don't give a name, comes in as white as a ghost, and 
Mister Egerton comes in afterwards as jolly as a sandboy, and 
presently they goes out, and then it's the gent as looks as jolly 
as a sandboy, and Mister Egerton as is as white as a ghost. It's 
rum — very rum !' 

With which criticism on passing events, the aforesaid observer 
of countenances went downstairs to the kitchen to finish his dis- 
turbed supper and enjoy a quiet half -hour over Bell's Life before 
retiring for the night. 

CHAPTER LXII. 

A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA. 

It was one o'clock in the morning when Egerton and Marston 
reached Heckett's house. 

During the journey neither had spoken.~ Each was busy with 
his own thoughts. 

Gurth knocked a certain number of times, and Heckett, 
lying tossing on the little bed in the back room, knew who 
was there, for he did not have his door opened at all hours to 
every one. 

Lately Egerton had been a constant visitor, for Heckett — 
too ill now to move — had confided his schemes to him, and en- 
trusted him with the disposal of his secrets, and his effects when 
he should be dead. 

Heckett was very ill to-night, and Bess was still sitting up 
with him. She had been out on business, and had not come 
back till late. 

G-eorge had watched by the old man all day, and had gone to 
bed tired out. 

' It's Egerton,' said the old dog-fancier, lifting his quick ears 
from the pillow ; ' that's his knock. What's in the wind now ? 
Go and let him in, missus— there's a dear !' 



A .MESSAGE FROM THE SEA. 291 

Bess went to the door and started back. There were two men 
outside. 

' It s all right,' said Egerton. ' This is a friend. Come in.' 
Gurth led the way into Heckett's room, and Marston followed 
him 

Bess, fancying she should be de trop, went on upstairs to the 
little room which she and her husband occupied, and where he 
had been unsuspected and secure ever since that eventful night 
in Hyde Park. 

Their troubles were soon to be over now, and they were 
patient, for George had, through Heckett, acquired sufficient 
evidence to prove how the whole scheme was concocted. 

Heckett, who knew how near his end was, had agreed to con- 
fess everything, and to leave the proof of what he stated with 
George, so that he might use them. He had ascertained through 
the police that an accomplice giving evidence which would secure 
the capture of the gold robbers would be pardoned, and on the 
morrow justice was to have the whole plot laid in her hands. 

' To-morrow,' said George, as Bess came into the room. ' To- 
morrow is here, Bess, already. In twelve hours the first step 
will have been taken to prove my innocence and take this horrible 
shame from my name. Once free from this odious stigma, I can 
work, my darling, and make a home for you, where, with God's 
help, we shall be happier than had we had the lands and the for- 
tune my poor father willed away to the stranger — to come into 
the hands of the very man who was the ruin of his son. But 
to-morrow we shall strike the first blow for freedom. Nay, to- 
day. What time is it ?' 

' Past one,' answered Bess ; ' and there's Mr. Egerton come 
with a strange gentleman to see Heckett.' 

■ It's about this business, I expect,' answered George. ' Heigho ! 
I'm tired. Let's go to sleep, and wake to find the new day 
dawned — the day that is to do so much for us.' 

While the escaped convict was conversing so hopefully above, 
the astonished Heckett found Marston by his side below. 

Weak as he was, he rapped out an oath as he saw his would-be 
assassin enter the room. 

It was a stormy interview at first, but gradually Heckett 
calmed down. In his confidence he had told Egerton everything, 
and now Egerton urged him to accept Marston's proposition, and 
hold his peace. What good would Heckett do himself ? He 
would have his revenge, that was true — but what use was revenge 
to a dying man ? 

Heckett listened calmly at last, and when Egerton had finished 
and Marston had added his argument, letting Heckett see pretty 
plainly that he could not injure him without injuring Egerton 
also, and dropping something more than a hint that the old story 
of Ralph Egerton's death in Heckett's gambling-house might 
have to be gone into too, if he were forced into a corner — when 

19—2 



292 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

all this had been said, Heckett closed his eyes, and lay, back on 
his pillow thinking. 

' I can't promise,' he said. ' There's others besides myself as 
as got accounts to reckon with you. I tell you what I'll do. 
I'll give you a week — a clear week — to- put daylight between 
yourself and the 'tecs.' 

' I'll accept that offer,' said Marston, quietly. 

He saw there was nothing better to be got from Heckett that 
night. In a week much might be done. In the mean time he 
knew he should hold Egerton safe. Delay was all he wanted 
now. Given a week, he might yet surmount every obstacle. 

He rose from the chair by Heckett's side, and prepared to go. 

As he did so Heckett beckoned to him. 

' There's one thing you can do for me,' he said. ' I believe as 
you know what's become o' my gal. I ain't got long to be here 
now, and I'd like to see my poor Gertie's gal afore I go. There's 
some things o' her poor mother's as I've kept for many a year as 
I'd like her to have. If you know where she's been all these 
years, maybe you'll tell her her old grandfather's dyin', and he'd 
die easier if he could see her again, and ask her to forgive him.' 

' You shall see Gertie if I can find her,' said Marston eagerly. 

A new idea had come to him. Gertie might induce the old 
man to hold his peace for ever. He had almost forgotten that 
Ruth's proteijee was Heckett's child. 

Gurth and Marston bade the old man ' Good-night,' and went 
out into the deserted street. 

' He's sinking fast,' said Gurth. ' Birnie saw him the other day, 
and says he can't live a month. Now I've kept my promise — 
keep yours.' 

They had walked to the corner of the street. 

' Oh — ah — yes,' answered Marston, quietly ; ' that confession. 
I promised it to you when you had silenced Heckett. You 
have only silenced him for a week, and he will live a month. 
But, my dear fellow, I always like to treat an old friend well. 
See here ' 

He pulled the newspaper out of his pocket and handed it to 
Gurth. 

' There you are, you see — there is your confession. The original 
is in the hands of the police. You're fond of trips to America 
— I should try another at once if I were you. Good-bye.' 

Marston turned on his heel, and walked rapidly away,' leaving 
Gurth Egerton glued to the spot with horror. He read and re- 
read the paragraph by the flickering light of the lamp. At 
any moment he might be arrested. The clue had been found by 
Marston. Why should it not be found by othei s ? and then — He 
dared not think of it. He felt a choking sensation at his throat. 

He would go back home at once and see Birnie, confide all to 
him, and take his advice. Birnie was the only friend he had in 
the world. He would go away again. There was nothing else 



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA. 393 

for it. It seemed as though his wandering feet were to find ho 
rest in this world. He was to be pursued everywhere by the 
shadow of the rash crime committed in his youth, and buried, as 
he fondly hoped, for ever. 

And now the sea had borne witness against him. How had 
the confession he had made to the clergyman in the hour of im- 
minent death been so miraculously preserved ? 

He could not think. 

He only knew that a voice had cried out against him from the 
far-off seas, and that at the present moment his confession of 
the murder of his cousin was in the hands of the police. 

CHAPTER LXIII. 

EDWARD MAKSTON GOES HOME. 

When Gurth Egerton got home he found Birnie still sitting up 
and smoking. The doctor had gone home, after the theatre, 
with some friends to a supper party, and had only just returned, 
although it was nearly four o'clock. 

As Gurth let himself in the doctor called out to him. 

' I'm glad you're up, Birnie,' said Gurth, ' for I want to speak 
to you/ 

' Why, how pale you are, old fellow ! You look as if you'd 
seen a ghost.' 

' So I have,' answered Gurth, sinking into a chair ; ' or some- 
thing quite as bad. That cursed business about Ralph has turned 
up again !' 

Birnie sat for a moment looking at his companion, and said 
nothing. For a long time past he had been wishing to speak to 
Gurth on this very subject, and yet he felt it was an awkward 
one to approach. 

He was firmly established in his profession, he had made a 
fortune, he had not the slightest need now of pecuniary assist- 
ance, and he felt that some day Gurth might be tempted to do 
some stupid thing, and then the blame would rest on him. 

Birnie had all his life long let nothing trouble him, and had 
always taken a passive rather that an active part in the search 
after fortune. He objected now to these periodical alarms of 
Mr. Egerton's. He didn't want to be bothered with his friend's 
business any more. He felt that the time had come when it 
would be perhaps as well if he and Gurth Egerton really did 
have a little conversation about the late Mr. Ralph Egerton. 

' Well, what about poor Ralph now ?' asked the doctor, after 
he had determined on his course of action and let a big ring of 
smoke float gracefully from his lips. 

' Birnie, I must make a clean breast of it,' said Gurth. ' It's 
no good beating about the bush. You know that unfortunate 
night when in the heat of a quarrel I stabbed Ralph, and he died. 
It wasn't murder, but the world might call it hard names. I ran 



294 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

away, like the coward that I am, and you sent me word that 
he was dead, that you had signed the certificate, and that I could 
come back. I have always been grateful to you, Birnie, and 
I think I've shown it, for you helped me out of a horrible mess. 
I tremble to think what might have happened but for you.' 

' It might have been a little awkward, certainly,' said Birnie. 

' Indeed it might. Well, when the Bon Espoir went down, 
and I thought it was all up with me, like a cursed fool that I 
was, I wrote out a confession and gave it to a clergyman. I con- 
fessed that I had stabbed my cousin.' 

' Good Heavens ! you didn't do that ?' exclaimed Birnie, his 
calm face agitated for once. 

' Yes, I did. And that cursed confession must have been pre- 
served, in some miraculous way, when the ship went down, for 
it floated ashore yesterday and my written words are in the 
papers. Thank goodness ! it's not all decipherable ; but there's 
no knowing what chemicals may do. Birnie, I must go away 
again ; and this time, I fear, for good. There is God's hand in 
this. I shall never know what peace is again.' 

Dr. Birnie was fairly astonished. Gurth had never taken him 
so completely into his confidence as this before. 

' Gurth Egerton,' he said, presently, 'you must be mad !' 

' I was, to sign such a damning document as that.' 

' And to confess a crime which you never committed.' 

' But,' stammered Gurth, ' you know I ' 

' I know you stabbed your cousin, certainly, but it was only a 
scratch. I thought I told you I signed the certificate of his death.' 

' Yes. To hide the real cause.' 

' Xonsense ! I signed a proper certificate. Ralph Egerton 
died from what I wrote on the certificate — from a complication 
of diseases brought on by drink. The wound had nothing to do 
with it. The bleeding did him good, if anything.' 

Gurth Egerton sat like a man in a dream. 

' Do you mean that ?' 

' I mean you've been accusing yourself all these years of a 
crime you never committed. I called a physician in to Ralph — he 
can be produced, if necessary. The cause of death was what I say.' 

' Why, in God's name, did you never tell me this before, 
Birnie ?' exclaimed Egerton, still half dazed. 

'I never knew you accused yourself of the murder,' said the 
doctor, quietly. 'I showed you the certificate.' 

' Yes, but I thought ' 

' My dear fellow,' exclaimed Birnie, interrupting, ' you've 
been the victim of an hallucination. The sooner you get rid of 
the idea that you murdered your cousin, the better ; and as to 
this confession, they'll never decipher any more . The salt water 
has destroyed the paper, I take it. No chemistry can restore 
what does not exist.' 

Gurth Egerton fetched a deep breath. He had punished him- 



EDWARD MARSTON GOES HOME. 195 

self all these years for his evil passions. He had fled when no 
man pursued. God had marked out his penalty, and he had had 
to bear it. 

And Marston had used this mare's nest to frighten him with. 
Marston believed it true, and had triumphed over him. Ah, now 
t'.is tables were turned. He was safe, and Marston was still at 
his mercy. 

Edward Marston went to the Waterloo terminus and waited 
for the first train that would take him down home. 

The first train left at six, and he walked about until it started. 
He was anxious to go down at once, and relieve his poor Ruth's 
suspense. He had gained a week's respite, and removed a 
dangerous enemy from his path. He would send Gertie up to 
the dying man at once. Gertie might plead with him for longer 
grace still for those who had been so good to her. At any rate, 
while things were as they were, it would be as well that the girl 
should be out of the way. 

Hope was strong in his breast that morning as he took his 
seat in the train. During one short night a change— a great 
change — had taken place. He had faced his enemy and conquered 
him, and diplomacy might easily accomplish the rest. 

He would give up everything willingly, if need be. All he 
asked was to get away with Ruth somewhere where he could 
live quietly and end his days in making his peace with God. 

Oh, if he came through this crisis, how earnestly, how truly, 
he would repent ! He leaned back in the carriage, as the train 
rushed on through the early morning, and thought of the poor 
heartbroken woman at home, whose love for him had been so 
good and pure and noble, and his eyes filled with tears. 

He pictured her at home, hoping and praying through the 
weary watches of the night for his safety. He could see her 
cheeks flush with joy as she heard his step upon the walk, and 
knew that he had come back to her safe from the jaws of his 
deidly peril. 

He pictured her hiding her head upon his guilty breast, and 
thanking the good God who had restored him to her once again, and 
then he forgot everything, save a sensation of horrible anguish. 
He heard a crash, the shrieks of men and women, he felt a 
terrible blow and the hot blood trickling down his face, sharp 
pain shot across his chest, and he knew no more till he found 
himself lying in a strange place, where he could not say, and he 
had a dull, dim sense of voices round him buzzing and humming 
like innumerable bees. 

He opened his eyes, and then he felt that he was terribly 
weak. He looked up and saw Ruth — his Ruth, with swollen 
eyes and a white, worn face, bending over him. 

Then he remembered that he had been on the railway, and 
that there had been a collision. He could not move ; he felt 



296 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

that there were bandages about his body, and he had a fearful, 
terrible pain in his chest and body. He tried to speak, and his 
voice came in a thin, weak whisper. 

Ruth was bending low, kneeling by his side. There were grave 
doctors standing by the bed, and a woman who looked like a nurse. 

Then he knew that he was in the hospital. His head felt, oh, 
so queer and strange, and everything seemed swimming about him. 

' Do you know me, Edward darling ?' whispered Ruth. 

' Yes, you are Ruth,' he said, feebly. ' Am I hurt ?' 

Ruth's sweet eyes were filled with tears again in a moment, 
and she nodded her head. 

The doctor came up and bent over him, and looked at him 
anxiously. 

' You are a doctor ?' whispered the injured man. 

1 Yes.' 

' Am I much hurt ?' 

' My poor fellow,' said the doctor, ' we must hope ; but it is 
my duty to tell you that there is the gravest danger in your case . 
It is only right that you should know it.' 

He had guessed it. 

He knew what the grave faces and the weeping wife meant. 
He was in danger of his life. He knew what the awful pain 
m«ant, and the weakness that almost robbed him of his voice. 

' You won't go away, Ruth ?' he said, feebly, as his wife bent 
towards him. 

' No,' sobbed Ruth ; ' I shall not leave you. They will let me 
stay.' 

The doctors were still by the bedside. 

He saw them — he saw Ruth — he dimly remembered all that 
had happened now, and, just as the remembrance was getting 
clearer, everything faded, and he relapsed into unconsciousness 
again. 

Ruth, watching by the unconscious form of her husband, 
knew the worst. In mercy the doctors had told her. Her hus- 
band had been brought in from the railway with terrible in- 
ternal injuries, which must be fatal. He had been identified as 
Squire Heritage by the papers in his pocket, and his wife had 
been sent for by the railway officials. He was dying. The 
doctor told her he would not live four-and-twenty hours. 
Science could do nothing. 

It was near midnight when he came to himself again, and a 
great screen was drawn about his bed. He was weaker now, 
but he did not feel the pain so much ; only there was a sensa- 
tion of floating away. His body seemed too light to stay where it 
was. He looked up, and saw his rrife's face pressed down on the 
pillow by his, her sweet eyes watching for the return of con- 
sciousness. 

' Ruth, my darling,' he whispsred, ' keep your face there a 
little while.' 



EDWARD MARSTON GOES HOME. iqj 

She kissed him gently, her hot tears wetting the pillow. 

' Don't cry, Ruth,' he said. ' It's batter so. I shall escape 
them all now. Pray for me, Ruth. Had I lived I might have 
tried to be better, but God knows best.' 

He lay for a moment and said nothing. 

His breath was coming faster and faster, and the grey shadows 
were settling down upon his face. 

Presently he closed his eyes again and sighed deeply. 

For a moment all was still. 

Then he opened his eyes and fixed them lovinglv on Ruth's face. 

' Smile, my darling,' he said. ' Let your smile be the last 
thing I see on earth. Forgive me for all the wrong I have 
done, and pray for me sometimes. The only happiness I ever 
knew in this world was your love. God bless you, my own Ruth ! 

She smiled at him as he bade — smiled through the tears that 
she could not check. 

His lips moved feebly, and she bent down till they touched 
her in one last feeble kiss. 

' God — bless you — Ruth,' he murmured, but so faintly that 
she could hardly hear it. 

He never spoke again. 

Her name was the last word upon his lips. 

CHAPTER LXIV 

GUKTH AND HECKETT. 

The news of the terrible accident on the railway had travelled 
far, and Edward Heritage's name had been seen among the list 
of the injured. 

The identity of Squire Heritage with Edward Marston was 
known to Birnie and Egerton. The latter was the first to bring 
the news of his death to Josh Heckett. The sudden and tragic 
termination of Marston's career materially altered the aspect of 
affairs. He was beyond the reach of all vengeance now. 

Gurth, relieved by the discovery that the crime he had accused 
himself of for years had existed only in his imagination, was in a 
sufficiently charitable frame of mind to bear no malice towards a 
man who could now do him no further harm. He had always had 
an intuitive dread of Marston. Birnie had played his cards so well 
that both Gurth and Heckett had always believed their old com- 
rade knew more about the affray in Heckett's gambling-den than 
he cared to say. 

' And so he's the fust to go, arter all !' exclaimed the old man, 
raising himself with difficulty in the arm-chair where George had 
placed him. He was so weak now that he required assistance to 
get across the room. That burly frame had shrunk, and his 
clothes hung loosely about him. His massive jaws were sunken, 
and the fierce eyes, large and bright with the fatal light of con- 
sumption, were set in deep violet circles. Every now and then a 



2^8 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

distressing cough shook him as a whirlwind shakes the old tree, 
and the great beads of perspiration caused by the paroxysm 
trickled down his attenuated face. 

' You're very bad, Josh,' said Gurth, as he sat by his side. 

' Ay, ay,' answered the old man. ' I'm goin' to make a die of 
it, mate. Josh Heckett's had his sentence. I'm to be put away 
for good and all.' 

' Have you made your will ?' 

' Will !' said the old man, almost fiercely. ' Who have I got to 
leave anything to, and what have I got, eh V 

Gurth smiled. 

' You know best, Josh. I suppose you haven't lived on air all 
these years.' 

'No — I ain't — but ' He hesitated a moment, then added, 

with a resolute accent, as though he had made a sudden re- 
solve, ' There, it's no good a-playing dark any longer. You 
ain't likely to want my bit o' property, so I'll tell you what I'd 
like to do. I wants to leave all I got to some charity — what's a 
good 'un ?' 

' Charity !' said Gurth. ' But what about your grand-daughter ? 
Charity begins at home.' 

Josh shook his head. 

' I shouldn't like to leave what I got to her. She's a-comin' 
bimeby. Mrs. Smith's gone for her to come and see me afore I 
die.' 

' Gone for her — where ?' 

' She's been kept by Marston at his grand place all this time. 
Mrs. Smith told me about the young gal as was there, and I see 
how it was in a minnit. It was that teacher-lady as used to come 
here, as he married— she 'ticed her away.' 

' Ah !' said Gurth, shaking his head, ' there was some deep 
game on, Josh, in Marston keeping Gertie dark from you. Now, 
whatever it was, it's beyond his reach now.' 

' I dunno,' answered Heckett. ' I think it was the teacher-lady 
as was at the bottom on it. Poor Gertie ! I didn't use her as I 
oughter a done. For my poor dead girl's sake I oughter a kept 
her out o' my swim.' 

' And yet even now you are going to leave your property away 
from her !' 

' Yes, I am. Do you think she'd thank me for it, seein' how I 
got it — by robbin' and swindlin' ? It's dirty money, governor, 
and I wants to do a lot o' good with it. I should like it for to go 
to a chapel, or a church, or something. There cannot be no harm 
in that, can there ?' 

' Is it in money ?' 

' Well, not all on it ; a good bit is. There's a lot o' plate and 
a lot o' joolery, but I suppose that wouldn't matter. Churches 
and chapels don't ask no questions when they has property left 
'em, do they ?' Gurth smiled. 



GURTH AND HECKETT. z v9 

' Can't say, Josh. I haven't any experience' 

' At any rate, the gal don't soil her fingers with none on it. I 
should like to leave her summat, too — summat as I come by all 
right and proper — summat as I needn't be ashamed on ; but I'm 
blest if I ever earned much on the square, when I comes to think 
it over.' 

Gurth turned the conversation. 

' What are you going to do about the Smiths now ?' he said. 

' Do ? Why, see 'em right, come what may. Marston's dead, 
and nothing as I can say will hurt him. I'm a-going to blow the 
whole gaff — make what they call a clean breast on it. I couldn't 
die easy if I thought as I'd left that poor chap to be collared 
again.' 

' When are you going to do it ?' 

' Bimeby,' answered the old man uneasily ; ' bimeby.' 

It was evident that although he had made up his mind to put 
himself at the mercy of the law, he was loth to do so while the 
least chance of life remained. 

Gurth Egerton left him much perplexed about the disposal of 
his property, and went away charged with a message to Birnie. 

' Tell him to give us a look in if he can,' groaned Josh. 
' I'm deuced bad, and I can't sleep. If he sees me he can give 
me summat as will let me sleep ; he's done it afore. Tell him I 
shan't trouble him much longer, but I'd like for to see him if I 
can.' 

Gurth took the thin, trembling hand of the old man and shook 
it gently. 

Til tell him,' he said. 'He'll come and see you, Josh. He 
doesn't forget old friends, though he is such a big pot now.' 

' No, no,' said Heckett ; ' he'll come — he'll come. I want 
him to tell me how long I shall live, for I've a lot to do— a lot 
to do.' 

Wearied with the exertion of talking, old Heckett sank back 
in his chair and closed his eyes, and Gurth, with a farewell nod, 
went out and closed the door softly behind him. 

CHAPTEK LXV 

MR. JABEZ DUCK DISTINGUISHES HIMSELF AT LAST. 

Mi!, and Mrs. Jabez Duck, by saying very little to each other, 
managed to avoid those scenes of wordy warfare which are con- 
sidered part and parcel of English domestic institutions. In- 
deed, so common is it for husband and wife to disagree when they 
commence to converse, that the expression, ' Master and missus 
have been having a few words,' is quite understood in the kitchen 
to mean that ' Master and missus ' have been having a quarrel. 

Mrs. Turvey, having once become Mrs. Duck, and mistress of 
an establishment of her own, was quite content to let Jabez have 
his own way so long as he kept out of hers. Her triumph over 



3oo ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

G-eorgina was dear to her woman's heart, and the greatest enjoy- 
ment she had in her married life was to stand at the window and 
glare at the opposite house, where Miss Duck, still a spinster, 
exhibited ' Apartments to Let ' in her window. 

G-eorgina returned the glare with interest whenever she per- 
ceived it, and time, instead of healing the feud, seemed to 
increase it. Jabez endeavoured to effect a reconciliation, but 
as each attempt only brought him the abuse of both parties, 
he finally gave it up, and determined to let things take their 
course. 

Whenever Jabez visited his sister he was prepared for a lec- 
ture on his folly in throwing himself away, and also for sundry 
warnings as to the conduct of his better-half. He didn't know 
half that went on. A nice stocking his wife was putting by. 
The lodgers were robbed, and he got the credit of it. The 
house was untidy — everybody talked about it. Everything 
that feminine malice could invent Miss Duck launched at the 
head of the lady who had, as her friend, Miss Jackson, feelingly 
observed, divided the children who once sat on one mother's knee. 

As a rule, the observations of his sister made no impression 
upon Mr. Duck. He had served an apprenticeship, and knew 
from personal experience how Georgina could magnify trifles into 
importance. 

But one day Georgina flung a reproach at his head which did 
not pass off without doing mischief. She boldly declared that 
during his absence a remarkably dissipated and disreputable 
individual of the male sex was in the habit of interviewing Mrs. 
Duck, and generally left with his pockets bulging out ; and on 
one occasion lately Miss Georgina noticed and declared that 
the said individual had exhibited all the signs of excessive 
intoxication on the front-door step, and had been seen to 
leave, after a stormy interview with Mrs. Duck at the front- 
door, clutching some silver money in a dirty and trembling hand. 

Miss Georgina's story was so circumstantial that Jabez believed 
there was something in it, and determined to cross-examine his 
batter-half. But, before he left, Miss Duck entreated him not 
to name her as his informant, as she didn't want her windows 
broken, or bad language flung down her area to the annoyance of 
her lodgers. 

Mr. Duck ridiculed the idea that his wife could so far forget her- 
self, but he promised Georgina that she should not be implicated. 

He left in a very uncomfortable state, and his sister watched 
him across the road, inwardly delighted at the idea that she had 
fired the train, and that her rival would come in for the full 
benefit of the explosion. 

Jabez nursed his wrath that evening until he had had a good 
tea, and no temper on his good lady's part could interfere with 
his enjoyment of that favourite meal. 

But when the tea-things had been cleared away, and Mrs. Duck 



MR. JABEZ DUCK DISTINGUISHES HIMSELF. 301 

had settled herself down in her chair to make out the first-floor's 
bill, which had been standing for a month, Jabez cleared his 
throat, and, picking up a newspaper, prepared to open a masked 
battery upon the good lady from behind it. 

He was just about to inquire casually who the gentleman was 
who called so frequently during his absence, when there came a 
loud knock at the door. 

The servant was upstairs, Mrs. Duck was busy with her 
book, so Jabez proceeded to the door himself. He opened it, 
and lot in a tremendous whiff of spirits and a voice which, 
in a thick, husky whisper, demanded if Mrs. Duck was at home. 

Jabez surveyed the visitor in astonishment. He was a middle- 
aged man, very shabbily dressed, and with bloated features, red, 
watery eyes, and a ragged, untidy beard. 

' And pray what do you want with Mrs. Duck ?' exclaimed 
Jabez, when he had recovered from his surprise. 

' Hulloh, guv'nor !' exclaimed the man, with an attempt at a 
smile which gradually merged into a hiccough ; ' why'sh my old 
fren' Shabez — dam' fool'sh married my sis'cr ! Glash shee you.' 

Jabez looked at the man silently for a moment. His words 
were a revelation. This, then, was the drunken visitor Georgina 
had seen so often. Mrs. Duck's brother had certainly not pros- 
pered in business lately. 

While Jabez was hesitating whether he should ask his brother- 
in law in or not, that gentleman relieved him of all further anxiety 
by walking or rather rolling in himself, and seizing Jabez affec- 
tionately in his arms. 

' Gos blesh you, ol' fler,' he said. ' Why'sh years since shaw 
you lasht. Know old shong — 

' " 'Tish yersh shince las' we met, 
And we may not meetsh again." ' 

Mr. Turvey, having raised his voice and howled forth the above 
in a melancholy manner, here fell exhausted with the exertion 
and overcome by his feelings on to Mr. Jabez's breast and wept 
copiously. 

Mrs. Duck, alarmed at the strange operatic performance in the 
hall, came running out, and, beholding her drunken brother help- 
less in her husband's arms, immediately began to upbraid the 
former in an excited and hysterical manner. 

' Oh, you good-for-nothing brute !' she exclaimed, ' to come 
here disgracing me like this ! Oh, you bad man ! Ain't I done 
everything I could for you ? Oh, you wicked wretch !' 

Mrs. Duck's feelings were working up to the screaming-point, 
when Jabez, alarmed lest the noise should reach the lodgers and 
cause a scandal, took the bull by the horns and dragged Mr. 
Turvey into the parlour. 

' Come in, Susan, and shut the door,' he groaned. ' This is 
dreadful— very dreadful !' 



302 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

' It isn't my fault, Jabez,' sobbed Mrs. Duck ; ' indeed it isn't ! 
I didn't want him to come here. I was ashamed for you to see 
him, and I done what I could to keep him away. I've given him 
money, and food, and clothes, and it's all gone in drink. He's a 
bad man — a bad man— though he is my own flesh and blood, as 
the saying is. Ugh !' 

This last exclamation was addressed to Mr. Turvey, whom 
Jabez had deposited on a chair, where he was vainly endeavour- 
ing to catch an imaginary fly with his hand — a proceeding which 
ended in his falling out of the chair on to the fender, and bring- 
ing down the fire-irons with a terrible clatter. 

' What's to be done with him ?' exclaimed Mrs. Duck, wring- 
ing her hands. 

' Wash' be done ?' said Mr. Turvey, struggling into a sitting 
posture ; ' wash' be done wi' me ? I'm lasht rosh shummer left 
blooming 'lone ; all lovlish compansh ish faded and gone — eh, 
Shabez ? — faded and gone, old cock — faangone.' 

The remembrance of the fall of his lovely companions was too 
much for Mr. Turvey, and once more his voice became lachry- 
mose. 

' Shuck me oush !' he exclaimed ; ' shuck me oush ! Lesh die 
in the streetsh ; all monsh gone.' 

' Really, Susan,' said Mr. Duck, knitting his brows and assuming 
an attitude of firmness, ' I am very sorry to see your relative in 
this condition. It's disgraceful — most disgraceful !' 

' Dishgraceful !' exclaimed Mr. Turvey, dragging himself up 
into a horizontal position and dropping heavily into the chair 
again ; ' wheresh dishgrace ? Look here, Mishter Duck, I'm har' 
up. Send me oush country. " To the Wesht, to the Wesht — 
land o' the free ; Missh — Misshouri " — cetra ; you know ; or elsh 
I shall give shelf up to the polish.' Mrs. Duck screamed. 

' Don't listen to what he's going to say, Jabez ; it isn't true ; 
he's saying it to extort money.' 

Mr. Jabez had not been an inquiry agent all these years 
without having acquired a habit of pricking up his ears. 
The mention of police aroused his attention at once, and then 
he remembered the mystery of the thousand pounds. He saw 
that if he wanted Mr. Turvey to become communicative he had 
better irritate him. 

' G-ive yourself up to the police !' he exclaimed ; ' if you don't 
leave my house instantly I'll save you the trouble.' 

For a moment Mr. Turvey looked at Mr. Duck as though he 
was wondering if he meant it. Gradually his features assumed 
an expression of rage which would have been comical had not the 
hideous surroundings of drunkenness overpowered all. 

'You— will!' he exclaimed, speaking slowly and dully, at 
first with an effort, but more clearly and rapidly as passion 
sobered him for a time. ' You will ! Do ! Then you'll have to 
send her to quod with me.' 



MR. JABEZ DUCK DISTINGUISHES HIMSELF. 303 

Mrs. Duck hid her face. 

' It isn't true, Jabez,' she moaned ; ' it isn't true.' 

' Ha, ha !' laughed Mr. Turvey, staggering up to the table, and 
bringing his dirty hand down on it with a blow. ' Look at her ! 
She won't do anything more for me, she won't ! Here !' he 
shouted, ' police ! police ! come and take me ! Come and arrest 
the great gold robber, Turvey the guard ! You've done it now, 
Susan ! It's too late ! Police ! police !' 

He rushed about the room in his drunken rage, smashing the 
things out of his way, and yelling ' Police !' at the top of his voice. 
Mrs. Turvey rushed to the door, her face white as death and her 
lips parted in terror. Jabez seized the furious drunkard in his 
arms and, exerting all his strength, forced him down into a chair. 

' Hold your row, you fool !' he exclaimed. ' Do you want the 
whole street about our ears ?' 

For a moment the man seemed inclined to struggle. He made 
one violent effort, and then began to sob, and whine, and maudle 
again. 

An hour later Mr. Turvey was fast asleep on the sofa in Mr. 
Duck's parlour. 

Mr. Duck had agreed to allow him to remain for the night, 
for he was very anxious to question Mr. Turvey when his 
present intoxication should have passed off. 

He had heard quite enough to know that he had the secret of 
the great gold robbery within his four walls, and he had seen a 
means by which he could not only earn a large reward, but the 
fame he had thirsted for all his life, without in any way injuring 
the esteemed individual whom he had the honour to call brother- 
in-law. 

He quite understood about the thousand pounds that had so 
mysteriously disappeared, and he had learned now for the first 
time from Susan that her brother, having dissipated every penny 
of it, had latterly returned and endeavoured to sponge upon her. 

' I lost the money that time,' said Mr. Duck to himself, with a 
chuckle ; ' but if I can pump him, and get the names of his 
accomplices from him, I shall make a thousand out of the re- 
lationship yet.' 

The next morning the fates were propitious. Mr. Turvey, 
having been offered a passage abroad and a little ready money to 
get drunk with when he landed, communicated to Jabez the 
whole history of the great gold robbery. 

A couple of days later Mr. Duck saw his promising brother-in- 
law safe on board a vessel bound for the colonies, and he then 
immediately proceeded to put his plans into execution. 

Having ascertained that the large rewards offered at the time 
had never been withdrawn, he placed himself in communication 
with the authorities at Scotland-yard. 

The only men accused by Jabez were Seth Prcene and Josh 



304 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Heckett. For some reason, possibly because in the muddled and 
drink-sodden condition of his brain he had forgotten the other 
parties to the robbery, Turvey, the guard, had named only the 
two men who had ridden in his van and taken an active part in 
the robbery. On Jabez's information warrants for the apprehen- 
sion of Preene and Heckett were issued and given to one of the 
principal detectives to execute. Bis orders were to proceed 
with the utmost caution, as the evidence was of the weakest 
possible description, and to make his own investigation before 
making an arrest. 

He certainly did act with caution, for the very first person to 
whom he confided the secret of his mission was his old friend, 
Mr. Seth Preene 

' I suppose I'd better hook it ?' said Mr. Preene. 

' I think so,' said the detective. ' As soon as you're safe away 
I can collar Josh. He'll do for me.' 

CHAPTER LXVI. 

BESS MAKES A CONFESSION. 

' George, I want to tell you something.' 

George and Bess were sitting upstairs in the little room which 
they occupied in Heckett's house. Josh had fallen into a doze, 
and Bess, who had nursed him devotedly, had stolen upstairs to 
her husband, for her mind was troubled. 

She had been round to Mrs. Jarvis that morning, and Mrs. 
Jarvis had started off down to the late Squire Heritage's with a 
note for Gertie. 

The sands of the old man's life were running fast, and he 
yearned for the presence of his granddaughter — ' Gertie's gal,' 
as he called her. 

Bess had seen the Jarvises once or twice, for hers was not a 
nature to forget such service as these simple, good-hearted people 
had rendered her and her husband in their hour of peril. 

Mr. Jarvis had emerged from his adventure with the police 
with flying colours. They were unable to obtain the slightest 
proof that he had ever thoroughly harboured the runaway, since 
he had boldly declared that when the detectives had the con- 
founded impudence to come searching for convicts at his 
residence he had declared they should find one, and so had 
donned the clothes which he had found in Mrs. Smith's rooms. 

' Oh,' said the Inspector, ' then he was there ?' 

' Of course he was,' answered Mr. Jarvis ; ' the gentleman 
came to see his wife, but he didn't stop. I didn't know as ho 
was a conwick ; he didn't come and say " Guvnor, I'm a conwick :" 
he dissembled, like willuns always does in the dramer. I thought 
he was a respectable cove come from a woyage.' 

' Then why didn't you say he had been at your house when 
the officer came with a warrant, instead of deceiving him ?' 



BESS MAKES A COXFESSION. 305 

•Devolving him!' exclaimed Mr. Jarvis; 'me deceive the 
police! Get out, guvnor ! Why, I wouldn't do it. I tell you, I 
put on the clos tor to see if they'd fit me, 'cos I'm a-going to 
play a eonwick in a new drama what my son wrote for the show. 
(.'lever boy he is, I can tell you ; he'll be a writer for Drury 
Lane afore long.' 

' Never mind about Drury Lane,' said the Inspector. 'Why 
did you deceive the officer ?' 

I'm a comin' to it ; you can't have all five hacs at once, yer 
know. Well, I was a-tryin' on the clos, when my missus calls up 
as the perlice is at the door. " This is hockard, I sez, guessin' 
what they wanted ; 'blest if they won't take me for the eonwick !" 
So I hides under the bed, not a-wantin' for to be dragged 
through the streets for the public to see the part gratis, as might 
interfere with the receipts, 'cos if the public can see you for 
nothink as a eonwick they ain't likely for to pay, are they ?' 

It was in vain that the Inspector cross-examined the showman ; 
the latter stuck to his tale, and produced undoubted evidence of 
his respectability. 

' Of course,' said the Inspector, ' we could charge you with 
being in possession of the Government clothing, you know.' 

Mi-. Jarvis looked down the convict's suit. 

' These the Government's clothes !' he exclaimed, with a comic 
lot k of astonishment. ' Well, I should advise the Government 
to change its tailor.' 

Mr. Jarvis was at last allowed to return to his home, but not 
before Mrs. Jarvis had been sent for to bring him a suit to 
return in. The convict's dress was retained at the station, and 
Mr. Jarvis was infoimed that he might go home, but he might 
be charged at any time. 

The Inspector, who was a shrewd man, fancied that it was 
quite possible, if there was collusion, by watching Mr. Jarvis, 
the police might come upon the escaped felon. 

But George never left Heckett's house when once he got into 
it, and Bess was so thickly veiled, and had so altered her style 
of dress, that the men, who had only had an occasional glimpse 
of her once, quite failed to recognise her as the convict's wife 
on the one or two occasions that she called at the Jarvises'. 

Early on the morning on which the events to be narrated in 
this chapter happened, Bess had been round, and despatched 
Mrs. Jarvis with a note to Gertie, at Heritage Hall, bidding her 
accompany the messenger if she would see her old grandfather 
alive. 

' George, I want to tell you something.' 

G corge looked up. 

' What is it, my darling ? No bad news, I hope ?' 

Bess put her arms round her husband's neck. 

' I don't think you'll blame me, dear, for what I did. Now 
that unhappy man is dead who caused us all our trouble, I think 

20 



3o5 ROGUES AND. VAGABONDS. 

you will be glad. I warned his wife, George, of what was going 
to be done.' 

For a moment George looked doubtfully in his wife's eyes. 
Then he stooped down and kissed her tenderly. 

' Bess, my own faithful, long-suffering little wife, you might 
have ruined all, but you obeyed the promptings of your woman's 
heart. The shadow of his fate cannot rest upon us now. "We 
dragged no loving wife through such misery as he dragged you.' 

' I did it for the best, George.' 

' I know it, my darling. It was God who sent you on your 
errand of mercy. We shall but have to wait a little longer. 
God will lift the stain from my name, and let the whole world 
see my innocence in His own way. Something tells me that 
the days of our pilgrimage are nearly over.' 

Bess took her husband's hand. 

' Do you remember, George, how we used to arrange in our 
old days, before the trouble came, what we would do when we 
had made a fortune ?' 

George sighed. 

' Ah ! they were happy days — happy dreams. But there may 
be a bright future before us yet.' 

Bess knew that George, in his heart of hearts, would approve 
what she had done, but she dared not tell him before, lest it 
should seem that she too was leagued with his enemies. 

But when the news of Marston's death came, she was thankful 
that no act of theirs had helped him to his doom. She had seen 
Ruth but once, and had read her goodness in her face. 

The woman's heart of George Heritage's wife went over in 
sympathy to the woman whose husband might one day be torn 
from her arms, and she determined at least to warn her of the 
peril that encompassed them. 

She thanked God all her life that she bad done so, and she 
thanked God that all his trouble and his great wiongs had not 
crushed out all tenderness and human sympathy from the big, 
noble heart of George Heritage, her husband and her idol. 



CHAPTER LXVII. 

gertie's bible. 

Gertie Heckett sat by the beside of her grandfather, holding 
his thin, trembling hands in hers. 

It was a bright sunshiny day, and the light streamed in 
through the curtained window and fell upon the fair young face 
a? it bent in gentle sympathy over the prostrate and suffering man. 

Gertie had been with her grandfather all the afternoon. °Much 
had been said. Gertie had told the old man the simple history 
of her later life, and how she had heard once that he had "one 
away never to come back any more. 

The old man's eyes never left the child's face. 



GERTIE'S BIBLE. 307 

' You ro rare and like my p;irl, Gertie,' he said once — ' rare and 
like my poor lass ! P'raps it I'd seen how like you was to her 
years ago I'd have been the better for it. I didn't use yer well, 
( \ ertie, but it was all fur the best. You've been brought up like 
a lady, and you found good friends. It was all for the best — all 
for the best.' 

Bess came in by-and-by to shift the old man's pillows, and see 
if ho wanted for anything. 

■ Missus,' said Josh, in the low voice he always spoke now, 
' missus, ask the young master to come in, will you ? I've 
summat as I want to say to my gal as I wants yer both to hear. 
I carn't make no will, but there's things as I wants Gertie to 
ave, and maybe if you hears what they be, you'll know it's all 
right when I'm gone ' 

' Oh, grandfather, you will get well perhaps !' said Gertie, her 
eyes filling with tears. 

' Xay, my lass — I'm goin' home ! Larst night I seed my gal a- 
sittin' there, and I knows what that means. They say you alius 
sees the dead when you're goin' to die yourself.' 

Gertie said nothing, only in her heart she wondered if her 
grandfather was fit to die. She longed to ask him if he had 
asked God to forgive him, but she dared not. 

"When Bess returned with George the old man bade them shut 
the door and lock it. His old caution had never left him. 

' That's right, mum,' he said ; ' now stoop down and give us 
the letter-box as is under the bed.' 

Bess did as Josh asked her, and handed him a tin box. 

He raised himself in the bed, and Bess propped him up with 
the pillows. 

1 Give us my keys, they're under the pillow,' he said, hugging 
the box to his oreast. 

When he had the keys he unlocked the box, and waited a 
moment before he opened it. 

' Listen here, guv'nor, and you, too, missus, now, 'cos I'm a- 
going to make my will. I carn't write it, so I say it. There's 
jewels and things in this here box as I've kept by for years, 'cos 
they was proputty and easy to carry about. Some o' these here 
wallyables I should like given to a church or something — some 
place as 'ud be likely to do good with em. I carn't give 'em to 
the gal, 'cos why, 'cos they ain't clean. There's that on 'em as 
makes 'em not fit for my gal's gal to have.' 

He opened the box and drew out a beautiful diamond orna- 
ment. 

George started back in astonishment. 

' Why, Heckett,' he exclaimed, ' where did you get that from ? 
They're my mother's jewels !' 

' What !' cried Josh, his white face flushing. ' Why o' course 
thev are ! I forgot. These here things are what I got at the 
Hall.' 

•20—2 



3o8 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 



j 



' Good Heavens, man !' said G-eorge, ' why didn't you tell me 
you had them ? They're all conclusive evidence of my innocence 
of that monstrous crime of which I was suspected.' 

'Don't talk so quick,' said Heckett, 'don't talk so quick, 
guv'nor. I'm weak, and I carn't think in a hurry. Yes — yes — 
these are all yours. No church won't have em. I can give 'em 
back to you. It '11 be a sin off my soul, won't it ?' 

George had taken the box from the old burglar's trembling 
hands, while Bess and Gertie looked on, astonished spectators of 
the scene. 

' These are the jewels,' cried George, lifting them to the light, 
' that my poor father prized and never would part with ! Often 
have I seen him gazing at them and whispering my mother's 
name .' 

Suddenly from the things in the box George drew a faded 
sheet of paper, and looked at it steadfastly. 

' It's my father's handwriting,' he said softly, placing it to his 
lips. ' Poor old dad ! poor old dad !' 

Gently he unfolded the writing and read it from beginning to 
end ; then he lifted his eyes, streaming with tears, and said : 

' Thank God ! thank God ! he forgave me !' 

George Heritage had read the codicil by which his father had 
revoked the will which left his property to Ruth Adrian, and 
had given everything once more to his beloved son. 

For years it had lain concealed among the old burglar's 
treasures, mixed up with the contents of the box stolen from 
the Hall, and thrust away together by the thief in a secure hiding 
place. Josh Heckett little knew the value of the bit of paper 
that had kept the stolen jewels company, to see the light when 
on his death-bed he wished to make reparation for the past. 

' Heckett !' exclaimed George excitedly, holding the paper up ; 
' there is the hand of Providence in this ! You have done much 
evil in your long life, I fear ; but now, lying here near your 
end, God has made you the instrument of His sovereign justice. 
You have united the husband and wife whom you helped to 
separate — you have restored an honest man his good name, and 
a disinherited son his rightful fortune !' 

' Have I done all that ?' exclaimed Josh, sinking back on his 
pillows exhausted. ' Lord, Lord, only to think on it !' 

' You have done all this, my poor fellow,' said George, lifting 
the old man's head gently and putting the pillows right — ' all 
this and more. You have made me the happiest man on earth !' 

'I've made somebody happy at last,' sighed Josh, closing his 
eyes. ' Don't speak for a minute or two ; I want to lie still and 
feel what doin' good be like.' 

The little group sat silent when Josh Heckett lay with closed 
eyes, his thoughts wandering far away into the past. 

He was the first to speak. 

' Gertie !' 



GERTIE'S BIBLE. 309 

' Yes, grandfather.' '■ 

• "Would you like to read nry gal's Bible to me ?' 
' Oh, yes, grandfather, if you would let me !' cried G-ertic, 
eagerly. 

' Missus,' said Josh, ' give the gal her mother's Bible. I ha' 
kept it all these years, but I never knew as I should want it. I 
kept it for my gal's sake. It's over yonder in the dror there.' 
Bess followed the old man's finger. 

She opened the drawer and drew out an old-fashioned cheap 
Bible, faded and worn with age. 
'Give it to me.' 

Josh took the book and looked at it reverently. 
' That's it,' he said ; ' she was always a-worriting of me to 
hear summat out of it, was my gal. " Father," she used to say, 
'' I wish you'd let me read yer a bit out of the Bible ;" but I 
never would. It warn't in my line then.' 

' Shall I read it to you now, grandfather ?' said Gertie, softly 
laying her hand upon the book. 

' Yes, gal, do. I seem to hear your mother's voice a-sayin', 
" Bead the Bible ! Read the Bible !" ' 
' What shall I read you, grandfather ?' 

' Arn't there summat in it about storin' away proputty and 
about thieves ? Once I heard a chap at a street-corner a-lecturin' 
on that. I fancy something about that 'ud be best for me 
to hear, eh ?' 

Gertie knew what her grandfather meant. She opened the 
Bible to search for the passage, and as she did so a paper fluttered 
down upon the floor. 

George picked it up and read it. 
' Why,' he exclaimed, 'it's a marriage certificate !' 
' A what ?' shouted Heckett, rising in the bed with new-found 
strength — 'a what in my gal's Bible V 

' It is the marriage certificate of Ralph Egerton and Gertrude 
Heckett.' 

' God of heaven !' cried the old burglar, clasping his hands ; 
' my gal was a honest gal arter all ! His wife ! his wife ! My 
gal — my gal ! why didn't I look in your Bible afore ?' 

In his wild excitement the old man had started up, and was 
clutching fiercely at the pillows ; his face was crimson and his 
sunken eyes were starting from his head. 

His hand was stretched eagerly towards Gertie, as though 
asking her to give him the Bible. As Gertie held it out he 
elutohed it, pressed it to his lips, and then, with a little cry, fell 
heavily back upon the pillows, while the life-blood welled from 
his mouth. The sudden exertion had completed the long work 
of disease. Josh Heckett had burst a blood-vessel, and was 
bleeding to death. 

Late that evening a cab rattled up to the door of Josh 



310 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Ileckett's house, and Mr. Duck and a strange gentleman got 
out. 

The strange gentleman knocked at the door. 

Bess opened it, and before she could ask their names the men 
had brushed past her into a room where they heard the sound of 
voices. 

George and Gertie were sitting in the shadow, and something 
was lying quite still upon the bed. 

' Josh Heckett,' exclaimed the strange gentleman, moving to- 
wards the bed, ' in the Queen's name, I arrest you !' 

George, forgetting caution, had hardly time to recover from 
his astonishment at the entrance of strangers before the detective 
had proclaimed his mission. 

' You are too late !' exclaimed George, seizing the officer's 
hand as it was about to touch the bed. > ' Your prisoner has 
already gone to answer for all his offences.' 

' Gone !' exclaims the officer. 

' Yes, to the Great Sessions where all men are tried — Josh 
Heckett is dead !' 

' It is true !' whispered Jabez Duck ; ' he is dead !' 

He had stolen softly to the bed where the dead man lay. At 
the sound of George's voice he turned and faced him. 

' George Smith, by all that's wonderful !' he exclaimed. 
' Officer, arrest this man ! He is an escaped convict !' 

Then, for the first time, did George remember his position. 
The sudden death of Heckett and the strange circumstance 
which had produced it had made him forget his own perilous 
position. That night Bess and Gertie kept watch in the house of 
the dead, and George lay with the iron bolts of justice shot upon 
him. 

But his heart was light, for he knew that His hand which had 
lifted the veil so far would bring the whole truth to light in His 
own good time. 

CHAPTER LXVIII. 

GEKTIE GAINS HER HERITAGE. 

Ruth Heritage, dressed in the deepest mourning, sat in the 
great room of Heritage Hall, looking out upon the grounds but 
seeing them not. Her thoughts were far away in the past, and 
the form that was ever before her eyes was the form of her dead 
husband. 

Ruth, when her first paroxysm of grief was over and she 
could think calmly, acknowledged that it was far better that 
the man whom she had loved so devotedly should be lying 
in the green churchyard than that he should be living a hunted 
outcast, perhaps imprisoned in a living tomb on which the iron 
hand of the law had turned the key for ever. 

At the grave Justice halts — beyond it neither friends can 
aid nor foes pursue. With all his sins upon him, Edward 



GERTIE GALXS HER HERITAGE. jn 

Marstou slept the long sleep until the Great Judge should call 
him. 

Religion with Ruth was no superstition, it was a beautiful 
faith, and, accepting the grand story of salvation as a Divine 
revelation to man, she treasured the abiding hope that He who 
had promised forgiveness to the very worst would be more 
merciful to the guilty soul of her lost love than earthly judges 
would have been to his guilty body. 

Her mother was but little comfort. to her in her loneliness. 
Poor Mrs. Adrian had become more and more hard to please, 
and infirmity of temper grew apace with infirmity of body. 

It was an intense relief to the bereaved woman when Gertie 
came back. 

For Gertie she had always cherished a motherly affection. 

Gertie was associated with all her later life, and was for ever 
bound up with the short history of her wedded happiness. 

Gertie and she and Marston had been a happy little family 
group before the trouble came, and with Gertie she could talk 
of the past without restraint. 

But Gertie brought back with her a strange story — a story 
which when Ruth heard she resolved at once to test to its foun- 
dation. 

From Gertie Mrs. Heritage gleaned not only the fact that her 
little prolef/ee was in some mysterious way heiress to a fortune, 
but she heard all that happened to the late squire's son and his 
faithful wife. 

Ruth sent a loving message to Bess at once, and bade her come 
to the Hall without delay. She remembered what this woman 
had done for her, and if, as she more than suspected, the romantic 
history of which Gertie only knew a few detached scraps was 
true, she was bound iby every consideration of justice and 
humanity at least to make such reparation for the bitter wrong 
as was within her power. 

It was with a strange feeling that Bess came to the Hall once 
more, for the events of the last few days had made a deep im- 
pression on her. 

The law was already at work to prove George's innocence, 
and she had no fear for that. But she had hesitated to 
break in upon Ruth's sacred sorrow with the tiding that she 
had lost not only husband and peace of mind, but fortune and 
home. 

Ruth and Bess sat together all the spring afternoon, and the 
light died down in the west, and the grey shadows crept up 
the long walk and fell softly on the tearful faces of the two 
women. 

Gently had Bess broken to the widow the secret of her dead 
husband's treachery, and Ruth listened, never doubting a word, 
for truth was written on every line of Bess's sweet, thin face. 

And while in the twilight they still sat on, all told, all known, 



312 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

Bess placed her arm gently round Ruth's neck, and drawing her 
towards her called her sister, and pressed the kiss of peace upon 
her lips. Ruth had seen her duty from the first. 

Xot for one moment would she dispute the just claim of 
the man and woman she had unknowingly and unwittingly 
ousted. 

She wished that the Hall should be Bess's home until all was 
settled, and that there should she welcome her husband as the 
rightful owner when the strange story had been told, and Justice 
had acknowledged that it had added one more to its long list of 
innocent victims. 

Xot a word was said about Gertie's claim until after the 
funeral of Heckett, but on the following day Ruth's solicitors 
wrote Mr. Gurth Egerton an official letter which completely 
spoiled that worthy gentleman's breakfast. 

He flung the letter across the table to Birnie. 

' The bombshell's dropped, Birnie !' he exclaimed. ' They've 
found a certificate of Ralph's marriage with Gertie's mother 
among the old man's papers. What the deuce shall I do r" 

' That's awkward,' answered Birnie. ' What are the terms of 
the will ?' 

' Ralph's father left everything to me if his son died without 
legitimate issue.' 

' Ahem ! And now they pretend that he married ; that this 
girl is his daughter, and therefore entitled to the property?' 

' Exactly.' 

' You didn't know of this marriage, did you ?' said Birnie 
quietly. 

' No, my dear fellow ! Of course not,' answered Gurth colour- 
ing. ' If I had — — ' 

Gurth did not finish the sentence. 

' Well,' said Birnie, after looking fixedly in the bottom of his 
cup for a minute, 'I should compromise — or fight.' 

' It's no good fighting. I'm afraid it's too straight.' 

' Then compromise, my dear boy. Get an indemnity for the 
past, and an allowance for the future.' 

' But would they do it ?' 

• Rather than have a long lawsuit. You can raise no end of 
quibbles. The law is a glorious weapon to fight Justice with, 
you know. If you lose the estate you haven't got a rap'; all the 
expenses would have to come out of the estate. Perhaps they'll 
tbink it cheaper to compromise. Try it.' 

Gurth took Birnie's advice and found it good. The solicitors 
were instructed to do nothing unfriendly. 

Mr. Egerton was the victim of an unfortunate circumstance. 
If he resigned his claim and avoided litigation he would be fairly 
treated. 

Gurth accepted a liberal proposition, and acknowledged the 
genuineness of Miss Egerton's pretensions, giving his legal assent 



GERTIE GAINS HER HERITAGE. 313 

to a transfer of the property, and accepting an indemnity for the 
revenue lie had already had through his hands. 

He managed to come out of the business with a small secured 
income and a by no means small nest-egg, and once more Mr. 
Oliver Birnie rubbed his hands and congratulated himself on the 
distinguished services he had rendered his friend. 

He knew how, moreover, that perhaps Gurth might have some 
day appealed to him if the settlement had been less satisfactory, 
and though he owed his present position entirely to Gurth's 
assistance in early days, he was by no means inclined to return 
the compliment. 

Men of Birnie's stamp never return anything, unless it is an 
I O U in answer to a friend's appeal for help. 

Ruth's solicitors were dealing not only with the affairs of Miss 
Egerton, but they also, at Ruth's request, undertook the task of 
releasing George Heritage. 

In the quiet lawyer's office Ruth, deeply veiled, told the whole 
story, and though her heart almost broke and her face burnt 
with shame as slowly, and with a trembling voice, she recounted 
her husband's share in it, she went on bravely to the end, never 
halting until she had branded herself with the shame of being a 
felon's wife, and stripped herself of every penny she had in the 
world. 

The solicitors took up the strange case with energy, and 
worked bravely for their client. Link by link they rejoined 
the long-broken chain, and carried the case even into the sacred 
precincts of the Home Office. 

And in the end, after delays and endless trouble, the Home 
Secretary was good enough graciously to advise Her Majesty to 
grant a free pardon to a man Avho had done nothing — nothing 
except to escape from the prison where he had been cast by the 
merciless machinations of a gang of guilty wretches with the 
assistance of Mr. Seth Preene, late in the confidence and in the 
pay of the authorities of Scotland Yard. 

CHAPTER LXIX. 

AND LAST. 

There is a charming little villa some distance from Heritage 
Hall — a pretty place, on which many a weary wanderer, tired 
with life's pilgrimage, has looked with an envious eye, and 
thought what a peaceful haven it must be to anchor in at last. 

It is the bright summer time when we pause to admire this 
rustic retreat. The June roses are hanging about the porch ; 
the scent of the sweet, old-fashioned flowers fills the air, and 
the lattice windows are opened wide to let in the odorous 
breeze. 

In an invalid chair, wheeled to the door, sits an old lady, 
peacefully dozing. The evening of her life is far spent, and the 



3H ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

night is-; at hand, but loving hands are ever ready to guide her 
tottering footsteps to the journey's end. 

Old Mrs. Adrian — dead to the past, dead to the future — 
dozes her declining days away here in this peaceful cottage, 
still finding a tongue that can chide for fancied slights, still 
in her feeble frame finding the strength to oppose and to con- 
tradict, but never failing, when she hears a gentle footstep 
approaching, to brighten into a smile, and to mumble out a 
loving word to the pale, gentle lady who bends over her and 
kisses the wrinkled brow. 

And often with the quiet lady there comes to her a tall, 
graceful, blue-eyed girl— a girl just budding into womanhood. 

These three — the old woman, the quiet, pale-faced lady, whose 
face bears traces of a sorrow too deep for words, endured nobly. 
and the young girl standing on the threshold of womanhood and 
waiting till some footfall shall make her heart beat with a new 
strange feeling — are together near the open door this warm June 
morning. Lying with his head upon his paws stretched out in 
front of his young mistress, is an old dog, who has his meat cut 
very small for him, and who now and then wags his tail with a 
stateliness suitable to grey hairs, but whose old eyes brighten 
still with a fond look of love when a gentle hand pats him and 
the voice which is the sweetest music he ever heard calls ' Lion.' 
Together they form a picturesque group that arrests the atten- 
tion of a very dusty, very hot, and very fat gentleman, who 
takes his pocket-handkerchief from his hat and mops a shiny 
bald head with it. 

' I beg pardon, ladies,' says the man, ' but maybe you can tell 
me where Squire Heritage lives ?' 

The young lady rises and comes to the garden gate. She is 
about to direct the man, when a cloud of dust comes round the 
corner. There is a clatter of horse's hoofs, and a pony-chaise 
rattles up to the door. 

' Here is the squire,' says the young lady. 

The fat gentleman stands aside and the squire does not see 
him. He is a handsome, happy-looking fellow, this squire, and 
there is a lady with him whose cheeks glow with health and 
whose bright eyes are full of life. 

' Oh, George !' says the lady, ' T'm sure you'll drive over some- 
body some day. My dear Gertie, if you could have seen us 
come down the lane you'd have thought we were mad. Ah, 
Ruth, how's your mamma to-day ?' 

The quiet lady had come down the little garden path to the 
carriage, and the lips of the women meet in a sisterly kiss. 

' I want you to come back to the Hall with us if you can leave 
your mamma for an hour,' says the gentleman called George. 
'Bess has been up to her mad tricks again, and what do you 
think she's done ?' Ruth smiles. 

' I'm sure I can't guess.' 



FINALE. 315 

' AVhy, she's invited the whole of the Jarvises down, caravan 
and all, and, if you please, they are to perforin for our special 
benefit an entirely new drama, written by Mr. Shakespeare Jar vis.' 

' Oh, Ruth, you will come, won't you V says Boss, clapping 
her hands, for Bess Heritage it is. ' I want only our old friends. 
You and Gertie must come — do !' 

Ruth laughs and nods her head. 

' That's right ; and now, Ruth, I'll come in and have a quiet 
chat with j'ou, while G-eorge talks nonsense to Gertie.' 

Gertie laughed and shook her head, but she stayed by the 
pony-carriage, for she knew that the two women wanted to 
talk about the past and about her, and Gertie didn't care to 
hear her own praises sounded. 

George was patting his pony and telling Gertie about a new 
pair he had bought for Ruth to drive herself, when the stout 
gentleman approached nervously, and, giving a little cough, 
attracted the squire's attention. 

' I beg pardon, Squire Heritage,' he said. 

George turned in a moment. He had reason to remember the 
voice. 

' Why, Duck,' he exclaimed, ' what the dickens are you doing 
here ?' " 

' Ahem — Squire ; to tell you the truth I'm come to see you.' 

' See me !' 

' Yes. I'm afraid our connection wasn't very pleasant, but — • 
ahem — let bygones be bygones — and I thought perhaps you 
wouldn't mind — ahem — taking my card, and if you want any- 
thing done in my line ' 

George took the proffered card. 

It announced that Mr. Jabez Duck had embarked in business 
on his own account as a private inquiry agent. 

George stared at the card, wondering which to do — to admire 
the man's cool impudence or to kick him. 

' You see, sir,' said Mr. Duck, giving his shiny head another 
mop, 'things are altered with me now. When I had the mis- 
fortune to have to do business with you I had an encumbrance, 
sir, and I couldn't afford to go about as an inquiry agent on his 
own account ought to. Mrs. Duck wouldn't hear of it. But 
now, sir, Mrs. Duck is no more, and I'm going to try business 
on my own hook altogether.' 

' Oh, Mrs. Duck's dead, is she ?' said George, for the sake of 
saying something. 

' Yes, sir ; she is. She never recovered the shock of Georgina, 
my sister, getting her front floor away through calumny, and 
she went over and stood in the cold a-shouting down the area 
at her, and got bronchitis, and is now an angel.' 

' Indeed,' said George ; ' I'm very glad — or rather, I mean, I'm 
very sorry. If I want any private inquiries made I'll think of 
you.' 



316 ROGUES AND VAGABONDS. 

'■ Thank you, squire. I thought I'd come to you for the sake 
of old acquaintance. We always made you and the missus as 
comfortable as ve could when you was lodging with us. Thank 
you, sir ; you won't forget if you should, will you ? Good day, 
sir!' 

Mr. Jabez bowed to George, took off his hat to Gertie, gave 
his head another mop, and waddled slowly out of sight. 

Inside the house Bess and Ruth sat together talking. They 
had grown to look upon one another as sisters, for the bonds 
which had united them in a dark hour of peril to both had 
grown firmer now the tempest was over and the light had come 
again. 

And, talking, they spoke of Gertie. 

' God's ways have been mysterious,' said Euth. ' How little 
did I think when I rescued her from that den of wickedness in 
Little Queer Street and let my home be hers, that one day she 
would repay me a hundredfold, and that when I became penniless 
and without a friend the child I reared would take me to her 
arms and make me the chosen inmate of her home, the guardian 
of her wealth, and that through her noble generosity my mother's 
declining years would be cheered and all care for her future and 
for mine be spared to me !' 

As George drove Bess back to the Hall the young squire told 
his wife of Duck's strange visit and request. 

' It gave me quite a shock, Bess,' he said : ' it brought back 
the old story so vividly to my mind.' 

It was a quiet shady lane, and there was no one looking, so 
Bess put her aims round George's neck and gave him a kiss fo 
suddenly that he pulled the reins and nearly jerked the pony up 
on his hind legs. 

' Don't talk about the old days, George, darling,' she said ; 
' that's all done with for ever. The dream we dreamt in Mr. 
Duck's parlour has come true. We are rich, and happy, and 
contented, and what more do you want ?' 

' Another kiss,' answered George. 

And he had it. 



THE END. 



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The Monks of Thelema. 
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Dorothy Forster. 

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Blacksmith and Scholar. 
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Antonlna. 
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New Magdalen. 
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Haunted Hotel. 
The Fallen Leaves 
Jezebel'sDaughter 
The Black Robe. 
Heart and Science 



28 



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Piccadilly Novels, continued — 
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Our Lady of Tears. | Circe's Lovers. 

BY M. BETHAM-EDWARDS. 
Felicia. I Kitty. 

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Archie Lovell. 

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Olympia. I One by One. 

Queen Cophetua. I A Real Queen. 
Prefaced by Sir BARTLE FRERE. 
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In Love and War. 
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In Honour Bound. 
Queen of the Meadow. 
In Pastures Green. 
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Under the Greenwood Tree. 

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Garth. 

Ellice Quentin. 
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Dust. | Fortune's Fool. 

Beatrix Randolph. 
Miss Cadogna. 

BY SIR A. HELPS. 
Ivan de Biron. 

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Thornicroft's Model. 
The Leaden Casket. 
Self-Condemned. 

BY JEAN INGELOW. 
Fated to be Free. 

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The Queen of Connaught 
The Dark Colleen. 

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Number Seventeen. 
Oakshott Castle* 



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BY E. LYNN LINTON. 

Patricia Kembalt. 

Atonement of Learn Dundas. 

The World Well Lost. 

Under which Lord ? 

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"My Love !" | lone. 

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Gideon Fleyce. 
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The Waterdale Neighbours. 

My Enemy's Daughter. 

Linley Rochford. | A Fair Saxon. 

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Miss Misanthrope. 

Donna Quixote. 

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Lost Rose | The Evil Eye. 

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Touch and Go. 
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Joseph's Coat. Vai Strange. 

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Whiteladies. 

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Gentle and Simple. 

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Lost Sir Massing- Carlyon's Year. 

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Fallen Fortunes. 
Halves. 

Walter's Word. 
What He Cost Her 
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CHATTO &■ WINDVS, PICCADILLY 



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3° 



BOOKS PUBLISHED BY 



Cheap Popular Novels, continued — 
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TheMartyrdomof 

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Annan Water. 
The New Abelard- 



The Shadow of 

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Love Me for Ever. 

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The Frozen Deep. 
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Heart and Science 



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3i 



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Oakshott Castle. | Number- Seventeen 
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Mrs. Lancaster's Rival. 

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It Is Never Too Late to Mend 

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Kit : A Memory. 
The Canon sWard 



32 



BOOKS PUBLISHED BY CHATTO &■ WINDUS. 



Cheap Popular Novels, cor.tir.ucd— 
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Griffith Gaunt. 

Put Yourself in His Place. 

The Double Marriage. 

Love Me Little, Love Me Long. 

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Tales for the Marines. 



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